Why I choose not to "celebrate" Columbus Day…

     Christopher Columbus; a seafaring hero that “discovered” America or a barbaric, murderous, torturer? It all depends on what side of history you choose to see. We all know that the history books are written by the “winners,” right?
     Even before Columbus Day was first made an official federal holiday in 1937, we Americans have celebrated the “great voyage” of Christopher Columbus and his crew. The voyage of the Nina, Pinta, and the Santa Maria; remember the stories and songs from elementary school?
     Americans have been taught for centuries that Columbus and his men were heroes that set out to discover a new land for the greatly oppressed people of Europe to flee to. What we aren’t always taught is that in fact, Columbus was on a treasure seeking mission for the Spanish government and believed that when he stumbled upon the Americas that he was really in the East Indies. It wasn’t until a few return trips later that he realized he wasn’t in fact in the East Indies after all.
     Don’t get me wrong. For anybody in the 1400’s to set sail on the ocean blue, into the vast unknown of the mighty Atlantic Ocean, was definitely a noteworthy feat. These men had to be extremely brave, crazy, or really yearning for the proverbial pot at the end of the rainbow (my guess is a combination of all three) to have set foot on one of those ships. The living conditions on the ships during the two-month voyage to the Americas were not all that hospitable. With crude navigational equipment they successfully sailed the Atlantic, not once, but several times. Definitely an accomplishment not to be forgotten.
     What we don’t always hear about, or we choose to ignore, is the fact that Columbus didn’t actually “discover” anything. He landed in the Bahama Islands; islands that were already inhabited.
     Columbus never actually set foot in the United States; he didn’t discover the country we now live in. Parts of North America had already been explored by the Vikings 500 years earlier. Besides North America, like the islands, was already inhabited.
     What we also don’t hear about, or we choose to ignore, is the fact the Columbus and his men (using Christianity as their shield) were responsible for the murder, torture, rape, and enslavement of thousands upon thousands of native islanders; not too Christian in my book.
     Because of Columbus’s “discovery” Europeans would eventually settle in North America bringing with them diseases that ravaged the Native American population. These diseases resulted in the deaths of millions, not to mention the war and torture that eventually ensued causing the deaths of millions more. The term “genocide” comes to mind when I think of the early history of the country we live in.
     Imagine how you would feel if suddenly the shores of the United States were invaded? If our homelands were taken (which ironically aren’t “ours” to begin with)? One needs to look no further than September 11, 2001 to get the answer to that question.
      It’s time the federal government did away with the official observance of Columbus Day. South Dakota does not recognize Columbus Day instead choosing to observe Native American Day; a day that seems definitely a more appropriate day to observe given the circumstances.
      A seafaring hero, the great discoverer of our land or a barbaric, murderous torturer? Which side of history do you choose to see?


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