Should We Celebrate Columbus Day?

Columbus Day is one of the only holidays named after a person, Christopher Columbus. Someone who has a holiday named after them should have made some very important contributions to history and have shown noble or admirable qualities as a person. Christopher Columbus however, does not show many admirable qualities. In fact, from what we know, he was a cruel, selfish person who killed a lot of people. We should not be celebrating the genocide of Native people and teaching children in elementary school that Columbus is a good role model. He may have been brave for sailing out to find new places, but he was extremely greedy and killed, captured, and tortured people to gain money and power. Columbus killed natives, stole gold, and never even landed on America. He was neither honorable, nor exemplary; he was a mass murderer, so we should not honor him with a holiday.

The phrase that most people use as justification for Columbus Day is that “He discovered America.” This is only barely true, for a number of reasons. He did introduce Europe to the New World but he was not even the first person to land in the Americas, like the myths would have you believe (Article 3). Columbus never landed on mainland America (Article 3). He wandered around islands in the Caribbean, stealing valuables, thinking he was in Asia. He did open up the islands for trade with Europe and bring in a lot of money for Spain (and himself), but he was not responsible for colonizing the mainland. The Vikings were actually the first non natives to “discover” America. By the eleventh century Vikings, who were early Scandinavians, had not only visited but already had established settlements in North America (Article 2).

Not only was Columbus not the discoverer of America, he was also a malicious, egotistical person. He was not good, or honest, or particularly creative or smart, and he does not deserve a holiday. When Columbus and his men landed on the islands that would become the West Indies, instead of being peaceful and trading with the indigenous people, they lied, exploited and killed hundreds of them. Natives were murdered for refusing to convert to Catholicism. Worse, they were often tortured or killed for amusement or over petty arguments over goods. Natives were killed in games for the sailors’ amusement, and women were raped.

Columbus captured natives and started a slave trade, even though they had been peaceful and kind to him. Warren H. Carroll describes the natives (the Taino people) as “a gentle, happy, attractive people living peacefully in good ecological balance with their surroundings” in Article The explorers took advantage of these good people, and we celebrate that as a national holiday. The disease that Columbus and his men brought to the New World were responsible for wiping out most of the population. The “Indians” had no immunity to the European diseases and they were easily communicable. It says in Article 2, “Within four years of Columbus’s arrival on Hipiola, his men had killed or exported one-third of the original Indian population of 300,000.” Columbus sparked the start of trade and European expansion and colonization in America, but he also wiped out one third of the Taino people by forcing them into slavery or murdering them.

Many people say that Columbus was a brave, determined man, and that he was honorable for exploring an area that no one had gone to before. In actuality, he was not motivated by some noble reason, such as scientifically proving that the Earth was round, (Articles 2 & 3) but he and his sponsors, were motivated by greed and self-interest. Columbus stole gold and valuables from native people, often killing to get them, and brought them back to Spain. He took land for himself and created plantations and mines, where he forced natives to work for him as slaves, building his personal wealth (Article 2). He was responsible for initiating the slave trade, and  transporting hundreds of natives across the ocean to Spain on ships with inhumane conditions to be sold as slaves (Article 2).

Columbus Day honors a cruel, greedy man who killed hundreds of innocent people. He may have been brave (Article 5), but that does not change the fact that he practically wiped out a whole culture and started a slave trade between Spain and the Americas (Article 2). We should be honoring culture that was lost all and the native people that died the instead of the man who killed them. Some people say that Columbus Day is the “beginning of cultural exchange between America and Europe” (Article 4) but Columbus wasn’t the only explorer to land in the New World. In fact, he never even landed on the mainland. We could celebrate “European American Cultural Exchange Day”, not Columbus Day. Columbus is often used as an American role model but a man who committed genocide is not a very good default role model. We should not celebrate Columbus Day because Columbus was selfish, treated natives very poorly, and he never even landed on America.

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