Opinion: it’s time to stop celebrating Columbus Day

THE DISAVOWED EXPLORER. Columbus Day (or indigenous people’s day as it is known in other states) is celebrated every year on the second Monday of October. However, somewhat recently, Columbus has fallen under scrutiny primarily due to his awful treatment of the natives that were so welcoming to his crew. As more and more is discovered about Columbus I feel that it becomes more and more important that we stop thinking of him as an infallible explorer, and think of him more critically as an explorer who made important discoveries but at the cost of genocide.

Article and graphic by Robert Merrick

As the story goes, Christopher Columbus landed in America and began a new age of exploration and colonization. However, over the past few years, the once revered historical figure has fallen from grace and “his” holiday is being criticized. One of the big dilemmas with Columbus is that while he did do important things, he wasn’t a good person. This, alongside a constant wave of people viewing him as a hero has led to a very different perception of how we think of Columbus, as opposed to what we thought of him twenty years ago.

One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding Columbus is the fact that he wasn’t the first European to land in America. He didn’t really land in what is traditionally considered North America either. Hundreds of years before Columbus landed in the Bahamas, a group of Norse explorers, led by Leif Erikson, landed somewhere along the north Atlantic coast. There they found an abundance of wild grapes which resulted in the place being called Vinland. 

Compare that to Columbus who, after arriving in the Bahamas and being treated to their kindness and hospitality, returned to Spain and came back with seventeen ships and ten-thousand men to begin his bloody regime. However the deed that has put Columbus under such a harsh light was his horrible treatment of the native populations. As he said in his journal “I could overrun these islands … [the natives] bear no arms and are all unprotected … they are fit to be ordered around and made to work.” 

There are plenty of stories about Columbus’s misdeeds, such as the story about how he forced the natives to fill a bell with gold dust or else they would lose appendages; however, at the very least we know that through the spread of diseases that the natives were not immune to, the immeasurable amount of natives that were sold of as slaves and the plain cruelty of Columbus. By 1542 the population of 250,000 Taino had fallen to just 200 natives. The senseless brutality of Columbus along with the cruelty that he treated the natives with means that the obloquy that Columbus is facing is warranted. Why should we give a idiotic genocidal tyrant a holiday when there are so many people that he hurt? As such Columbus Day should no longer be celebrated.

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