“In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Every kid I’ve ever met at some point in their life learned the Christopher Columbus song, whether it was on the blue carpet of their preschool classroom or sitting in music class as a first grader. From that day on, they dream of Columbus and his heroic journey across the Atlantic and hope that one day they will be as courageous as the Italian explorer.
To these kids, and some adults, Columbus is a hero in America. Our country gives him a holiday, so why wouldn’t he be someone everyone should look up to and strive to be like?
Let’s get some facts straight. What did Columbus do? He accidentally stumbled upon the Bahamas trying to find a faster route from Europe to India and China. What did he not do? Step foot on mainland North America, once. What did he do? He enslaved, murdered and exploited thousands of Native Americans trying to become as rich as possible. What did he not do? Anything that merits the reward of an entire day dedicated to celebrating him.
It’s time for our country to forget the audacious stories of Columbus we learned about from picture books and video clips as kids and realize there is no reason to celebrate Columbus. Instead, we should officially replace Columbus day with Indigenous People’s Day, so we can celebrate the actual first inhabitants of our country.
Indigenous People’s Day is a counter holiday to Columbus Day that is celebrated to recognize not only the indigenous people who inhabited the land long before Columbus arrived, but also the Native American population of our country today. As of now, Minnesota, Vermont, Alaska and South Dakota have already made the switch.
While we can’t argue that Columbus is single-handedly responsible for the annihilation of the native population, he undoubtedly was a major contributor. It is undeniable Columbus could do nothing to stop the diseases that he and his comrades brought over the Atlantic that plagued the American Indian villages. However, he did have the ability to stop the senseless slaughter of hundreds of thousands.
It’s hard to imagine a person thinking that a “hero” includes someone who chopped off peoples’ hands when they didn’t bring an allotted amount of gold. Superman and Captain America didn’t use Native American babies as food for their dogs. Not all heroes wear capes, but not a single hero pillages entire villages while raping women and girls along the way. If we continue to celebrate Columbus Day nationally, we are sending the message that these are the acts that we consider meritful.
Columbus didn’t discover the Americas – he pillaged and murdered the people who always called our land their home. It’s time to pay our respects and start giving a national holiday to the people who have always known about our great land.