The Controversy Surrounding Columbus Day


Today marks yet another year in which we Americans commemorate the landing of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492. I’m sure we all know who Christopher Columbus is, the man who “discovered” the New World. It was President Harrison who called upon the citizens of the United States to formally celebrate such a momentous occasion and it was President Roosevelt who made it a national holiday in 1937. The event then became a lighting rod for patriotism all around the country, highlighting a proud and noble discovery made by such a brave man.

But that is not the case. Columbus never discovered America. The so-called “New World” was already incredibly old by then. A diverse group of settlers was already occupying the land and they had established culture, trade, politics, and even went to war with one another. No, Columbus merely connected the two worlds, so he should never have been credited as the man who discovered America. That’s just plagiarism.

Also, Columbus didn’t even set foot on what is our America. Yes, he traveled courageously across the Atlantic Ocean and planted the Spanish flag on the place we now call the Bahamas. He even mistakenly thought he was in India (the East Indies) and that’s why American Natives are called “Indians.” According to The History Channel, there are three main sources of controversy involving Columbus’s interactions with the indigenous people he labeled “Indians”: the use of violence and slavery, the forced conversion of native peoples to Christianity and the introduction of a host of new diseases that would have dramatic long-term effects on native people in the Americas.

It is admirable, however, that hundreds of years later, Americans today have started dropping the shady celebration of Columbus Day and now look towards Native Peoples. According to CNN, dozens of US cities like San Francisco and Cincinnati have decided to stop observing Columbus Day and instead will celebrate the latter on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. States like Minnesota, Alaska, Vermont and Oregon have done so as well.

Despite this national improvement across the country, the present administration still lives in the past. President Trump wrote a proclamation regarding the event last Oct. 6, saying:

“On Columbus Day, we commemorate the achievements of this skilled Italian explorer and recognize his courage, will power, and ambition — all values we cherish as Americans.”

This proves that Columbus Day is merely another questionable event that we Americans participate in. Though his discoveries were undeniably essential in the formation of the country we are now today, we must remember him as just that. As another figure in history whose contributions became consequential. No need to celebrate him. No need to show pride towards a man who claimed he discovered new land that was already populated by millions of people. No need to show pride towards a man who slaughtered them and exploited their riches in the name of wealth and power.

So hopefully today people all over the country will further realize the truth about Columbus and instead celebrate those who were in this land long before the Italian made his so-called discovery.