By Chelsea Arangon and Trina Bernal
If you went to an American public school, you most likely learned Columbus discovered the Americas in 1492. Because of said fact, we began celebrating Columbus Day when President Franklin D. Roosevelt made it a federal holiday in 1937.
However, did you also know he enslaved the Natives living in the Americas? Or the fact he killed millions of Natives to the point where the Caribbean Basin Natives population went from fifteen million to extinction? Why are we praising a man who is the murderer of masses?
According to Columbus’ journal entries, sourced from Berkeley Education, he originally wanted to find another water trade route to Asia in hopes of finding silk or spices. But on October 12, 1492 Columbus and his crew stumbled upon the Americas.
To his dismay, they didn’t find what they were looking for but instead discovered the Taino tribe; Columbus believing he was in Asia called them “Indians.”He already began brewing thoughts of converting them into Christianity and controlling them. He only took pieces of gold with a few island animals and plants along with captured Tainos back to Spain.
Back home, Columbus proposed his thoughts on the new land. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella continued to support his voyages only in exchange for gold, animals, plants, and Natives but it was at the expense of Natives’ lives.
From the Understanding Prejudice Organization, Columbus and his crew pillaged, raped, beat, and killed the Natives. He later used the bodies of the Natives as food for their hunting dogs.. He enslaved the Tainos and planned to eliminate their tribes. By 1496, the Natives population of eight million drastically decreased to three million, to merely 200 in 1542. In today’s terms, it would be our population of 324.5 millions reducing to 8,619 by 2067.
Elementary school kids are read a rhyme: “IN 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He had three ships and left from Spain; He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain. He sailed by night; he sailed by day; He used the stars to find his way.” The rhyme shortly summarizes Columbus’ “success” of getting to his destination, purposefully leaving out all his faults as an explorer. But that shouldn’t be the case; no matter how many good things Columbus did, it can never quite justify the innocent lives he took.
However, some people don’t want to call Columbus’ murder of almost an entire race a “genocide”. For example, Valerio Viale, an Italo Americano writer, thinks Columbus had no bad intentions; “Columbus never planned [an] extermination of an ethnic group”. Columbus never “planned” it, but it happened! It happened as a consequence of his arrival there, with a loss of 7.98 million Taino tribe members, eight years after Columbus’ death.
U.S. states, like Vermont and Alaska, have substituted Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, which celebrates Native Americans instead of Columbus. On October 9th of this year, Los Angeles adopted Indigenous Peoples Day in place of Columbus Day. There’s even an International Day of the World’s Indigenous People on August 9, created by United Nations in 1994.
If the world was perfect and everything was black and white, no such thing as Columbus Day would exist. And if you wanted to take it further, we probably would never have set foot on this land we call the “Land of the Free”. But we do, because of all the people that came before us. At the end of the day Columbus’ actions are set in stone, but we can still move into the future honoring the late Indigenous people’s lives.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYTXRDtYzYc (Watch to see how Native Americans feel about Columbus today.)