The Viewpoint: Replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day

Category:  Opinions
Friday, October 25th, 2019 at 10:58 AM

Our Viewpoint is voted on by The Spectator staff, while then written by the editor of the Voices section.

Last week, the U.S. closed its federal buildings, schools were let out for a day, and families soaked up the last bit of summer with a long weekend, all in recognition of Columbus Day.

While some thanked the man that “discovered” the “home of the brave,” others took to the streets to deface monuments and protest the recognition of a mass murderer.

We all know the saying: “in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” But there is more to his story and, more importantly, that of those he harmed along the way.

Initially, Columbus went to the King and Queen of Italy begging them to fund his oversea voyages, but he was rejected. Eventually he was commissioned by Spain to search of an easier route to India. He was given three infamous ships — the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria — and sailed for two months, landing in the Caribbean. When he made landfall, he called the people “Indians” because he was certain that this was, in fact, India.

Upon his first discovery, Columbus wrote about all of his findings: the dolphins, the birds, the natives and why they should be enslaved…nothing out of the ordinary.

Columbus would venture back to the Caribbean and what would become Central America three more times. Each time, he recorded his findings and looked for goods — spices and gold — to send back to Spain. During his first voyage, Columbus found Native Americans and nothing else.

Instead of returning empty handed, Columbus enslaved roughly 500 Native Americans and gave his journal (which again, explained why he believed Native Americans should be enslaved) as a sort of reparation for his lack of findings to the Queen of Spain. She denied his gifts (morally so), but still funded Columbus’ future voyages.

A few more things to note about Columbus on this topic:

  • He manipulated Spain by claiming there were goods in the “New World” as a way to convince the king and queen to give him more money for his explorations.
  • He murdered and enslaved the natives.
  • He is celebrated as being the man to discover America, however Leif Erikson had ventured to what is now Canada 200 years prior. In addition, Columbus never landed in North America.

What Columbus did do is light a fire that would lead to the “Age of Discovery.” This resulted in the mass genocide of thousands of Native Americans (a genocide that would last more than 300 years). The “discovery” of places that were already inhabited resulted in a violent history that spread across the Americas.

Again, Columbus never landed in what is now the U.S., and he ignited the murders of Native Americans and incited an ideology that was used as a sort of justification when U.S. presidents like Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson ordered the murder of natives for their own gains.

So, why do we consider him the founder of America when all he did was lie and kill? Sure, without him, maybe we wouldn’t live in the U.S. the way it is now, but the history of natives might not be filled with such horrors.

On a national level, America has not seen members of Congress push for the removal of Columbus Day. However, on a state level, some are pushing to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. If we condemn former slave owners or Hitler, why wouldn’t we condemn someone who captured and killed thousands for not having gold?

We decided that after taking their homeland from them, we would give them small sections of land as reparations for the white man’s crimes.

Then we elected a president that is so pro-corporate America, he allowed an oil pipe to run through a reservation’s only source of drinking water.

Too many people in the states believe that natives are being given money, getting a free higher education and living their best life, but we have seen time and time again that isn’t the case. Natives are being marginalized.

We should still make current students and future generations aware of Columbus. He is the reason the rest of Europe gained the courage to sail the Atlantic Ocean. However, with that, we need to educate them on what he did wrong and make them aware of the crimes he committed.

Columbus should stay in our textbooks, but only if he will be represented appropriately.

Columbus must stay out of our politics and national holidays. When we celebrate and praise Columbus, we turn a blind eye to the first Americans. We ignore their history and their story. We often forget that without the compassionate natives that helped the first settlers, the colonies would have been a failed mission. We forget that without the natives, our democracy as it is now would not be thriving.

Native Americans have done more for this country (their country) than Columbus ever could. It is time we give recognition to the ones who have been here, who have suffered and who are going to stay here.

If you want to know more about the violent history of Columbus, visit both History.com and BBC.co.uk.

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