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Nadra Kareem Nittle

Should Columbus Day Be Celebrated?

By October 10, 2011

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Since 1937, Columbus Day has been celebrated nationally in the United States. But in recent decades, Native American organizations and other activist groups have called the holiday into question. Christopher Columbus was no hero, they say, but a slave trader who ended life for indigenous peoples as they knew it by setting up the first European colony in the Americas, sexually exploiting Native women and girls as young as nine years old and raping the land of natural resources such as the gold he lavished upon King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. Columbus reportedly forced the Native peoples he encountered-- Tainos, Arawaks, Lucayans--to secure gold for him or be tortured.  Because of the barbarous way Columbus treated indigenous peoples as well as the diseases his European crew introduced to the New World, the indigenous population in the Bahamas was cut in half within two years of Columbus disembarking there in 1492.

Given the devastating impact Columbus had on Native Americans, it's no wonder that the American Indian Movement (AIM) issued a statement arguing that the organization views the explorer much like Jews regard Adolf Hitler.

Glenn Morris of AIM's Colorado branch remarked on radio program "Democracy Now!" that Columbus Day "exists in part to advance a national ideology of celebrating invasion, conquest and colonialism." Therefore, he argued, Columbus should not be remembered as a hero. "We believe that Columbus as a national icon is a mistake and sends certainly the wrong message to schoolchildren about what is heroic about the history of this hemisphere," Morris continued. "Certainly, the heroism of Columbus does not warrant a national holiday. In fact, he wasn't a hero. He was a slave-trading Indian killer."

It's unlikely that the U.S. government will end observance of Columbus Day in the near future, but that doesn't mean that the truth about Columbus and his impact should be swept under the rug. Schoolchildren can be taught (in an age appropriate manner, of course) about the atrocities America's indigenous peoples endured at the hands of Columbus and his men. Government officials and community members who participate in Columbus Day parades and festivals can take a moment to remember those who lost their way of life once Columbus landed in the New World. City and state governments can choose to set aside a day to honor Native peoples. The movement to transform Columbus Day shows no signs of slowing down.


Comments

October 25, 2011 at 4:52 pm
(1) kwame Osei says:

To celebrate this murderous disease infested criminal would be akin to doing the same for Hitler, Mussolin et all. This is a perfect example of “the killing of history” by Australian scholar Keith Windschuttle who writes of it in his novel. History has been so distorted and fabricated that it simply needs to be re written. This was one of the worst examples of humanity ever this christopher Colombus yet he has been hailed as a Christian and saint. Bulls–t!

December 21, 2011 at 8:26 am
(2) Lainla says:

According to historical accounts, Christopher Columbus stumbled across America as a result of being lost at sea – he didn’t discover it! He meant to find India, not America; and the reason being is because Indian spices were of huge demand in Europe. Columbus took to the seas to find India and it is NEVER mentioned in history that he got lost! I learned this through a historical research course in college. I had always heard that Columbus was lost at sea in this venture, but I didn’t know the facts of the story behind it. When Christopher Columbus happened upon the shores of America, he found curious Native Americans who met him. Columbus thought he found India and that these friendly nature loving souls were the “Indians” of India; especially, since they had brown/redish hues, and some had even darker tones. Hence, the name “Indians” resulted, as a matter of confusion. It is also why some Native Americans do not want to be called Indians. And in the second place, how could Columbus discover America when Native Americans were already living for centuries on the land? Either these indigenous people don’t count or someone has erased them from history. Columbus didn’t discover America! But for Europe, he discovered a lot of vast lands, rich soil, and untapped resources and this began the end of the indigenous way of life for all native peoples of this land. It is a shameful history filled with disease, bloodshed, degradation, death, and genocide. It is shameful that this note worthy information remains mysteriously unmentioned – and that this holiday for Columbus reinforces a lie and myths.

May 8, 2012 at 10:50 pm
(3) trinity says:

this is not always a good thing to celebrate.

May 31, 2012 at 1:05 pm
(4) Calahan says:

The Vikings came across America before Columbus did, anyway. He didn’t discover, or rediscover, America. he just landed on a land not known to him or his people. Mind you no permanent colony was ever set up by the Nords, but they certainly did have an impact on the population of the natives during their wars with them.

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