This past October 8th, Americans got a holiday to celebrate Christopher Columbus Day. Columbus sailed from Spain with the intention of traveling to India. He took the route which took him to the New World, the Americas. October 12, 1492 was the day he had landed on the Bahamas. We celebrate this day because Columbus had apparently discovered the Americas, which led to European settlement of the New World. But with all that in mind, should we really be celebrating this day year after year?
People have a good image in their heads when they think about Christopher Columbus, but he was not as great as our textbooks make him seem. He had brought numerous diseases to the lands that killed about 250,000 indigenous people in 1492. Over 236,000 indigenous people were killed by the year 1517, which was 95% of their population. Some of the diseases brought were smallpox, measles, influenza, bubonic plague, chicken pox, yellow fever, malaria, and Lyme disease. These diseases were contagious and spread rapidly. They were new to the indigenous people so it was harder for them to know what to do and did not have the immunity to fight them.
The way Columbus and the Europeans treated the Arawak people was cruel. He had exterminated the entire race by 1555, and they were only one of the many cultures he had visited. The indigenous people were perceived as slaves, and were given unfair treatment. He took them as prisoners, and would send slaves back to Spain. Some would die going or coming back from the journey. Columbus would also let the European men treat the women and children poorly, and they were treated worse than the men. He forced them to convert to Christianity, and if they refused they were punished.
It seems morally unjust for us to be celebrating a man who committed such atrocities. Instead of honoring Columbus, some cities have opted to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day. This year four states, and fifty-five cities chose to switch over. Some of the cities are Los Angeles, Seattle, Minneapolis, Denver, Phoenix, and Austin. Washington D.C did not make it a holiday, and the children went to school. A lawmaker has put forward a bill that would turn Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day.
As for me, I believe that we should switch Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. We should celebrate the people that were discovered, their culture and heritage as a major foundation of our nation instead of the person who “discovered” them.