We all learned about Christopher Columbus in elementary school. We couldn’t wait for our day off on October 8th, the day that celebrated the “finder of the New World”. He was painted as a hero and a man that risked it all to find a sea route to India for the king and queen of Spain, but is this the truth? In 1492, Columbus landed on the shores of the Bahamas and encountered the Indigenous people of the Americas. With his arrival came disease, genocide, violence and the enslavement of indigenous people. Columbus named the people he encountered “Indians”, as he believed that he had indeed reached Asia and was encountering the inhabitants of India, but this was not the case.
The history, while it may be boring to some, is important in the debate of whether or not Columbus Day should be a holiday, or if this holiday should be renamed “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”. Some people may be uncomfortable with the renaming of the holiday, as it has been known as Columbus Day unofficially since the 18th century and acts and a day of American pride.
While it may seem strange and uncomfortable at first for some to change the name to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”, one must understand the traumatic consequences faced by indigenous people upon the arrival of Columbus. Many people died from the diseases Columbus and his men brought over from Europe. Millions of people were killed in altercations with soldiers and settlers. The culture of Indigenous people of the Americas was nearly wiped out due to the arrival of Columbus and the attempts to Christianize and modernize the people he encountered.
When these experiences of Indigenous people are explained and brought to light, does it not seem cruel to celebrate a man that destroyed the lives of millions of people? Instead of celebrating a man that brought genocide to a large group of people and drove them out of the sacred lands that they had lived on for thousands of years, does it not seem more fitting to celebrate the lives and culture of the resilient Indigenous people of the Americas?
Personally, I believe that Columbus Day should be eradicated and aptly renamed Indigenous Peoples’ Day. As a country, the United States should not celebrate the genocide of the indigenous people that had inhabited the Americas. Instead, we should remember the tragedy that occurred upon Columbus’ arrival and we should educate ourselves on the culture and civilizations of the indigenous people that were destroyed by European soldiers and settlers.
If the struggles and suffering of indigenous people is a topic that you are not familiar with, I encourage you to educate yourself on the history of their mistreatment and genocide. While it is surprising, indigenous people are still discriminated against and are still struggling with the loss of their land and culture due to the actions of the Europeans and subsequently the American government. The more that the public is educated on the topic of the struggles of indigenous people, the more action can be taken to reverse and mediate the negative experiences they faced for hundreds of years.