Opinion: Why do we Celebrate Columbus Day?

Instead of celebrating the legacy of Christopher Columbus, we should instead remember the cultures he destroyed


Library of Congress: http://loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3g04188/

Christopher Columbus meeting Native Americans for the first time.

Labor Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day.  All holidays created to remember those who served and defended democracy and this country.  However, the holiday that we “celebrate” today does not deserve its place among these honorable days.

Why would we celebrate the birthday of a mass murderer?

When Christopher Columbus reached a small island in the Bahamas, the natives were extremely hospitable.  By most accounts, their society was well developed and peaceful. This drastically changed with the arrival of Columbus. Columbus began his tyrannical rule by forcing the natives to work, many died of exhaustion. He set up shop in Espa-Ola, now Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  He promptly set up systematic extermination of the Taino people and reduced there number from as many as 8 million to 3 million in 1496.

As they saw themselves each day perishing by the cruel and inhuman treatment of the Spaniards, crushed to earth by the horses, cut in pieces by swords, eaten and torn by dogs, many buried alive and suffering all kinds of exquisite tortures… [many surrendered to their fate, while the survivors] fled to the mountains [to starve].”

— Ward Churchill

It is estimated that as many as 100 million natives were killed over the course of European conquest in the Americas.

The Spaniards had to bring back something to England but the gold deprived lands of the Bahamas yielded little in terms of valuables. However, Columbus made the natives search for gold. If they did not reach their quota, their hands were cut off. Since the only gold, was dust in rivers, many natives fled, but they were hunted down and murdered by the Spaniards.    

These crimes are beyond immoral, they are horrendous. The question is, why do we celebrate this day?  

Columbus wasn’t even the first western explorer to have “discovered” the Americas. Hundreds of years before him, the Viking explorer Leif Eriksson landed in Newfoundland. So why do we credit a tyrant for his oppression?

The holiday dates back to 1742, but did not become a national holiday in 1937, when President Kennedy was under pressure from the Knights of Columbus to make it a holiday. We only “celebrate” this man because the people that supported his “morals,” lobbied to make it a holiday.

Christopher Columbus was, bottom line, a bad person. He murdered, he enslaved and he tortured. We should not praise someone like that.

It is shameful to see that the foundation of our nation was built on the blood and work of others, that memory is nothing to celebrate. The worst part about this holiday is that our education system excludes all the horrific parts of Columbus’s conquest.

If we are to celebrate history at least tell the whole story. 

Instead of Columbus Day, today we should celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day.