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Why not to celebrate Columbus Day

November 1, 2019

Christopher Columbus: a greedy, murderous thief. And yet, this man has an entire day dedicated to him. Every second Monday of October, the United States observes his “discovery” of the Americas. What no one mentions is his terrible treatment of the indigenous people. 

After landing, Columbus was greeted with kindness by the natives. He soon turned their hospitality against them, however. After he returned to Spain, he wrote to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain that the natives were timid and he could provide them with “slaves as many as they shall order to be shipped.” Columbus then went back a second time and started selling the natives of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) as sex slaves. “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,” he wrote in 1500.  

Not only did he treat the children and women as objects, Columbus also forced the native people to work as slaves in gold mines. His men raped women, tore children from their mothers and bashed their heads on rocks and committed other horrendous actions. 

This horrid treatment along with brutal killings, theft, and kidnappings led to Columbus being imprisoned in Spain for his actions (he was later bailed out by the king). Even his own people saw that what he was doing was wrong. So, why again, are we celebrating this criminal? Kids in school learn the rhyme “In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” without knowing what happened after the journey. They are taught to be in awe of this mighty sailor who had enough curiosity to sail into the unknown. In reality, he was a criminal of the highest degree. Should this be someone that kids look up to? 

Instead, we should celebrate something worthwhile: Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It’s held the same day, but instead of praising someone who led to the genocide of natives in the Caribbean Islands, it honors Native American peoples and their culture and history. It is a day to learn about local tribes and become educated. Teach kids in school about this holiday instead of Christopher Columbus. 

There’s no way to undo the irreversible damage that Columbus did to the natives and the land he stole, and the people that affects today, but abolishing Christopher Columbus Day is a miniscule step towards the right thing. 

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