Cartoon by Luis Ortiz ® Cartoonist |
For centuries, more specifically since 1792, October 12 has been known as Christopher Columbus Day. People across the Americas have celebrated Columbus exploring this land by holding religious ceremonies, hosting parades and teaching about the history of Columbus in schools.
In recent years, however, people have challenged this national holiday due to the lasting harm Columbus has left this country in.
In 1990, South Dakota was the first state to rename Columbus Day to Native Americans’ Day in order to celebrate and honor the Indigenous tribes who have lived here long before the settlers.
So now poses the question, “Why not celebrate Columbus discovering the Americas and why change this innocent holiday?”
It’s simple. Columbus did not discover the Americas and, despite what has been taught in schools for years, he was not a good person.
A main argument for the idealization of the 15th century explorer is the idea that he was the first European to discover the Americas. This claim has been proven recently as Viking Leif Ericksson was the first European to discover the New World, about 500 years prior to Columbus’ famous journey.
The motivation behind the 1492 voyage was a contract between him and the King and Queen of Spain, with wealth and riches backing up this unethical exploration.
When Columbus did sail over, the Indigenous people were there to help him and the other settlers survive. In return, the Indigenous people were given diseases they couldn’t fight off, and many died because of it. Those who survived were forced into a colonized life that was contradictory to their own, a life that supported the ideas and beliefs of the settlers.
While it’s important to note the ways in which Columbus harmed indigenous people, he also hurt their culture. By forcing them into a new lifestyle that wasn’t seen as ‘savage’, Columbus was ripping away the ways of life that were once known to the Indigenous people and taking away parts of their identity. This form of abuse has been rippled into today’s society.
Throughout history, Indigenous culture has been whitewashed and forgotten. This comes in numerous forms, including the removal of the Indigeous languages and their history to better fit modern history books.
You can also go more in depth with the ways in which the government takes care of reservations in the United States, which is poorly. There are issues pertaining to education, substance abuse, gambling, and women who are missing that need to be addressed and handled.
Instead of praising a man who only caused harm to this group of people, we need to be supporting Indigenous people and listening to their stories.
It’s a lot of information to unpack, but it’s important to educate yourself on this history and recognize the harm the Indigenous people have experienced their whole lives.