Well today is Columbus Day in America.
And, thankfully, many people are realizing that celebrating a holiday named after an ignorant and horrible man is not the smartest thing in the world to do.
I am reminded of the joke that says what Columbus did is equivalent to going into someone’s house and declaring it to be yours. Just because you say so.
Christopher Columbus did not discover America. He stumbled upon it. And, more importantly, you cannot discover a place that already has people living there. Clearly those people knew about it already, since they were there when he arrived. I suppose what is meant when people say Columbus discovered America is that Columbus discovered America for white people. Then that is what they should say.
And discovering it for Europeans unleashed a torrent of awful things for the people who were already here. Historians can tell you that among the things Columbus and his men did were the following:
He shipped the native peoples to Spain to be slaves, if he did not kill or rape them.
He worked to convert them to his religion since their’s wasn’t to his liking.
He forced the native people, who, even he wrote in his diaries, were the friendliest people he ever met, to work in his gold mines until many died of exhaustion.
He stole the gold and other resources he found and shipped them back to Spain to repay the Queen for financing his trip.
He used attack dogs on those who refused to obey him and become a slave. Cutting off an ear or a nose was a common punishment. So was burning them alive and having his dogs tear off limbs while they were still alive. Arawak tribe members’ babies were killed for dog food.
One of Columbus’s own men was so horrified that he became a priest. Bartolome De Las Casas in one account wrote, “The Spaniards under Columbus' command cut off the legs of children who ran from them, to test the sharpness of their blades.” He said another common torture was to pour boiling soap down the throats of tribe members. In a single day, De Las Casas wrote that soldiers dismembered, beheaded or raped 3,000 native people.
I could go on, but you get the point.
One article noted: “Experts generally agree that before 1492, the population on the island of Hispaniola probably numbered above 3 million. Within 20 years of Spanish arrival, it was reduced to only 60,000. Within 50 years, not a single original native inhabitant could be found. And of course since slavery was one of the main forms of income for Columbus, once the native numbers were too low, they were replaced with Africans.
Yeah, I think I’ll skip the celebrations about Columbus. And what does it say about our education system that none of this history was taught about Columbus? Yet we all know about the Nina, The Pinta and The Santa Maria.
And it so nice to see the cities that have taken a stand against celebrating this horrible man. Seattle recently voted to join Berkeley and Minneapolis in dropping Columbus Day and replacing it with Indigenous People’s Day. South Dakota has long celebrated it as Native American Day. In time I imagine more states and cities will get on board as we begin to look at history not as some want us to, but as it really happened. Columbus Day was a lie from the beginning. Let’s put a nail in that coffin.