It’s that time again so we must speak out again. Columbus Day is a bullshit holiday. Why, why, why do we have anything to do with it? Why do stores have special sales days in the name of this murderous mad man? Why do banks and the post office close for such a ridiculous reason?
The good news, though, is that as we and others speak out against disgusting historical figures like Christopher Columbus, people are taking notice and things are slowly, but surely, changing. Check out this article to see what I mean:
But next up is Halloween and so we must brace ourselves for all the wretched and cringe-worthy costumes we will soon come face to face with. So let’s all take a moment and do some research on what not to wear this Halloween and why. Here are two good sources so you can see and read why you shouldn’t dress up as or allow your children to dress up as these specific types of characters/people.
Now I understand some people may be confused or think this is being way to PC, but really, it’s not. If you think that you aren’t racist and aren’t a bigot and that you find one or more of the mentioned costumes to be fine, then I have a suggestion for you: if you have African American friends and you think costumes with blackface are perfectly acceptable because, perhaps, you think you or your child is honoring a specific black person in history, then get some advice from your African American buddies and see what they say.
Or perhaps you want your child to be and Apache warrior and you believe you are honoring Apache people with this costume, then go find an actual member of the Apache tribe or perhaps another member of a different tribe and ask them for their thoughts on the matter. I doubt they’ll see it your way.
So before you think this is ridiculous and you think you know everything, get some advice from a relevant party like any intelligent adult would and try to see things from their perspective. Or don’t and just hope you don’t end up as another jackass Internet meme or jumped by a few people who you thought you were honoring or worse, you lose your job and eventually your home because you were found to be the next open racist with photo and or video evidence posted all over the Internet. Good for you!
With all that said, I’d like to re-post a paper I wrote several years ago about why I personally don’t believe we should be celebrating Columbus Day. Your comments are welcome and thank you for visiting Tha Native’s blog today. We appreciate it.
Why we shouldn’t celebrate Columbus Day
Some might call Christopher Columbus one of the world’s greatest explorers; someone who was fearless and unrelenting in his quest to travel across the Atlantic in pursuit of a new route to Asia. Others might call him a tyrannical madman who ignited a savage and merciless campaign of slavery and genocide against the indigenous people of the Americas. Both of these views are possibly very accurate. But, because of the fact that he never actually set foot on what is now known as the United States of America; was not the first non-native to set foot on the Americas; and because of the simple logic that you cannot “discover” a continent that had already been discovered and occupied by more than one group of people; legislation should be passed to abolish Columbus Day in the United States of America.
Most sources state that Christopher Columbus landed on an island somewhere in the Caribbean in 1492 with Hispaniola being the most likely island. By the time he completed his four trips to the Americas, all to the Caribbean, he very likely visited all or most of the islands in the area, but never anywhere in the United States of America. The reason that this is so important is that, as already stated, you cannot discover a land already occupied and or colonized by another group of people. The people of these islands, know as Tainos and Arawaks, obviously left the mainland of North, South, or Central America at some point in time and settled in the Caribbean islands. These truly would be the first settlers who obviously had to travel the sea to get to the Caribbean islands hundreds or thousands of years earlier.
I hope that I have made this very simple concept clear as I do not wish to go into too many details that would probably be unnecessary. Christopher Columbus did not discover the Americas thus he did not discover the United States of America. It would be a completely illogical statement to say that he did. But to go a step further with this argument, and of probably much more importance, Columbus was also not the first non-Amerindian to arrive in the Americas. There are numerous sources that give various amounts of evidence that other groups of explorers arrived in the Americas decades and even centuries earlier.
One non-Amerindian group that landed on and traveled along the North American continent were the Norse Vikings. They setup colonies on Greenland which lasted, “five hundred years (982- c. 1500), as long as the European settlement of the Americas until now (Loewen 42).” There is even evidence that suggests that these Vikings, who traveled to many parts of the world by sea, traveled quite far down the Atlantic coast, even to as far as New England and possibly even quite further than that.
Assuming that the information presented here is true, and I am confident that it is, one would have to consider why Americans don’t celebrate Leif Erickson of the Norse who explored North America hundreds of years before Columbus and even settled a colony in Newfoundland, Canada around the tenth century. Well in fact in the late nineteenth century scholars started researching this very same question. Their research, including a book by R.B. Anderson titled America not Discovered by Columbus, a historical sketch of the discovery of America by the Norsemen, helped bring about the truth of this common misconception that Columbus discovered America. Or to state it another way, Columbus was not the first European to reach the New World. One thing that this research and well known book accomplished, besides straightening out some facts concerning who reached the New World first, was getting Leif Erickson his own American annual observance. And in 1925, “…President Calvin Coolidge gave recognition to Leif Erickson as the Discoverer of America… (Leif Erickson Day 2011).” And five years later, in 1930, “Wisconsin became the first U.S. state to officially adopt Leif Erickson Day as a state holiday… (Leif Erickson Day 2011).”
So why is it that the U.S. government and so many U.S. companies take Columbus Day off and Leif Erickson Day is never even talked about? For example, if you look up the U.S.P.S. holiday schedule for each year, they always take off Columbus Day. What did Christopher Columbus do that Leif Erickson did not do? My first guess would be that Christopher Columbus left a trail of genocide and slavery previously unknown to man in an effort to gain riches for himself and for the king and queen of Spain. And although I do not feel that I overestimate his atrocities one bit, textbooks and children's books alike make Christopher Columbus out to be a hero and a saint. They often either do not mention his cruel and barbaric actions towards the natives he encountered or they gloss right over them as if they were a necessary evil in the discovery and development of our nation.
To quote the Spaniard Bartolomé De Las Casas, a contemporary of Christopher Columbus, and who first arrived around the time of Columbus’ third or fourth trip to the Caribbean, “What we committed in the Indies stands out among the most unpardonable offenses committed against God and mankind and his trade [in American Indian slaves] as one of the most unjust, evil, and cruel, among them (Loewen 31). Las Casas documented many of the atrocities by Columbus, whose diary he eventually had in his possession, and the Conquistadors who ravaged the Caribbean islands in his presence. He also did his best to estimate the changes in native population due to the astounding rate of deaths he witnessed.
A book first published in 1992 that contains the many translated writings of Las Casas describes some of the horrors he witnessed. One of the many gruesome accounts he talks about in his writings starts off, “They forced their way into native settlements, slaughtering everyone they found there, including small children, old men, pregnant women, and even women who had just given birth (Las Casas, Pagden,15). Believe it or not this story becomes more and more gruesome as it goes on. There are numerous accounts by Las Casas of the inhumane treatment that the natives received in the quest for riches by the Spaniards who were seeking gold and dealing in the slave trade.
After meeting the natives for the first time Columbus stated, “They should be good and intelligent servants… (Zinn 32). Columbus probably knew soon after meeting the natives that he was going to use them as slaves no matter how well they treated him. And as the days passed and little gold was found, Columbus grew desperate to return with something of value. On the fourth day Columbus is quoted as saying, “…with 50 men all of them could be held in subjection and can be made to do whatever one might wish (Zinn 34).
Columbus showed a special kind of evil in deciding that he would take the natives back to Spain to sell as slaves knowing what a kind and naïve people they were. In another one of Las Casas’ writings he stated of the natives, “They are by nature the most humble, patient, and peaceable, holding no grudges, free from embroilments, neither excitable nor quarrelsome (Zinn 36).” I believe that because of the wonderful character and lack of weapons the natives had, Las Casas cared for them deeply whereas Columbus decided he could take advantage. Las Casas knew full well what Columbus and the conquistadors were doing as he so articulately explains, “The reason for killing and destroying such an infinite number of souls is that the Christians have an ultimate aim, which is to acquire gold, and to swell themselves with riches in a very brief time and thus rise to a high estate disproportionate to their merits…And also those lands are so rich and felicitous, the native peoples so meek and patient, so easy to subject, that our Spaniards have no more consideration for them than beasts. And I say this from my own knowledge of the act I witnessed (Zinn 37).”
The rape of the women and young girls and murder of the people grew so horrible that the natives resorted to killing themselves and their children just to avoid the cruel ways they knew they would be put to death. Columbus, the famous admiral and hero of so many, knew all too well of what was happening, including young girls being sold or given away to be used as sex slaves. “On Haiti, sex slaves were one more perquisite that the Spaniards enjoyed.” Columbus wrote a friend in 1500, “A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand (Loewen 58-59).”
So, whereas Leif Erickson and other Norsemen explored the Americas and only left a small footprint from a couple of somewhat unsuccessful colonies, Columbus plundered the land and its inhabitants. As one author put it, “Columbus introduced two phenomena that revolutionized race relations and transformed the modern world: the taking of land, wealth, and labor from indigenous people in the Western Hemisphere, leading to their near extermination, and the transatlantic slave trade, which created a racial underclass (Loewen 53).”
The United States needs to progress to a more sensitive point of view regarding Christopher Columbus and his treatment of the indigenous people. The American public needs to come to grips with the true history of the United States and the Native American Indians who have been perceived as slowing progress where as in reality they were simply protecting themselves. The native people have been reduced to a very minor role in our history books and tyrants like Christopher Columbus have been celebrated. It is an insult to Leif Erickson and his descendants that Columbus is much more recognized than he is for traveling to the Americas before other Europeans did. And it is an even greater insult to Native Americans that Christopher Columbus is so celebrated in the United States while Native Americans continue to fight a losing battle for rights to their own lands; lands that were stolen from them by the U.S. government similar to Christopher Columbus claiming the Caribbean for Spain and exterminating anyone in his path that did not obey.
What does it say about the U.S. government who after committing their own genocide of the native people and imported thousands of slaves from Africa, and then continues to incorrectly celebrate a tyrant’s discovery of America knowing the real truth? It says that we care more about a fake hero who died centuries ago than we do of the native people who are still being abused to this day by the U.S. government. We must abolish Columbus Day not just to be technically correct, but to be ethically correct.
Las Casas, Bartolome; Pagden, Anthony; Griffin, Nigel. A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies. London. ePenguin. 2004. Kindle Edition.
“Leif Erickson Day” Wikipedia 2011. Web. 21-23 Oct. 2011
Loewen, James W. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. New York. New Press, The. 2008. Kindle Edition.
Zinn, Andrew. A Peoples History of the United States. 1990. New York. Harper Perennial. 1990. Print.