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Why Columbus Was the Worst: What the History Books Didn’t Tell You

In rejection of Columbus’s praise throughout American history, there has been effort to change “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous Peoples Day.” Moreover, in order to refute the celebration of the beginning of turmoil, fear and death in the native community, November has been commemorated as a month to recognize the contributions native peoples have made to the establishment and growth of the United States. The official designation of the month occurred in 1990 when President George H.W. Bush approved a resolution to designate November “National American Indian Heritage Month,” and because of this, it’s the perfect time to dive into the lies you have been told about Columbus. Let’s set the record straight: Columbus was a sh*thead. Let’s lay down the facts.

The Facts

First of all, Columbus never discovered America. Other than the fact that millions of people had already established their own civilizations all throughout North America, Columbus never actually even stepped onto its shore; Columbus arrived in the Bahamas after the infamous journey that began in 1492. He eventually “explored” what is present day Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and various shores of South America, but he was never present on North American soil. Also, the idea that Columbus tried to prove the world was round during a time the world was believed to be flat is dead wrong; the belief of a round earth has been established since Ancient Greece. Additionally, the deal he struck with Queen Isabella of Spain “allowed” Columbus admiral of the land “he discovered”. However, he didn’t discover anything because it (1) wasn’t new (2) wasn’t up for grabs and (3) was already inhabited. These minor details didn’t bother Columbus, though. Oh no, he used the kindness of the Taino people against them as he exploited their resources and forced them into slavery. All around an unbelievably abhorrent person, and we’re just getting started.

What They Didn’t Tell You in History Class

Christopher Columbus was one of the many terrible people that led to the persecution, enslavement, displacement and death of thousands of natives. His interactions with native people can be broken down to (1) violence and slavery (2) conversion of natives to Christianity and (3) introduction of the disease that was detrimental to natives’ health. First, Columbus and his crew enslaved inhabitants of what is now Hispaniola by threatening the loss of limbs or even downright murder. He eventually contributed to the growing slave trade by kidnapping and selling thousands of Tainos to Spain, too. Other Tainos were subjected to forced labor in gold mines. After Columbus realized there wasn’t much gold, the natives were forced to work on crops. Columbus would also “reward” his lieutenants with native women. There are many accounts of the violence and rape Columbus and his followers inflicted upon natives due to “disobedience” and because they were entitled to do so. To put icing on the cake, natives had no immunity to the foreign pathogens that the European’s carried with them on their three-month journey across the Atlantic. These diseases led to a devastating plague among the native peoples because they couldn’t fight a disease they had never experienced before. Thousands died. Eventually, Columbus was arrested by the Spanish Government. Thankfully someone had a conscious in 1499; the Spanish monarchs had heard what Columbus had done to the natives of Hispaniola, and they did something about it. They chained him up and sent him back to Spain. Questionable punishment, though, to simply send someone home.

What to Do About All this Information

Nobody is perfect, especially if we put history in perspective with norms of the time. However, the acts committed by Christopher Columbus are inexcusable at any time throughout history. His actions established a cycle of abuse, displacement and oppression against natives. It is time to discontinue nursery rhymes about Christopher Columbus and instead teach the atrocities that he committed to expose the putrid person he was.

In order to not end on a bad note, I would like to highlight the progression towards factual representation that the world has taken in recent years. With the establishment of National American Indian Heritage month every November, citizens throughout America are forced to challenge their knowledge about the establishment of this land. As a country, we continue to grow as more knowledge is recognized by the majority of citizens through the work of activists and educators. I encourage you to celebrate this November by educating yourself about history, no matter how ugly it is.

Keely is a Psychology Major and pursing a BPHIL in International and Area Studies on a Global Studies track. She loves to visit new places in Pittsburgh and spend time outdoors. Keely hopes to one day work within the field of Global Health.
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