The Truth About Columbus Day - Why Are We Celebrating?

We should all be celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Today, while millions across America are celebrating Columbus Day, the city of Seattle is celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day. That’s because last week, the Seattle city council unanimously passed a resolution to honor the contributions and cultures of Native Americans on the second Monday of October.

While Seattle’s decision may seem unusual, it’s actually part of growing trend. Many cities and states across the country have shifted away from celebrating Columbus Day, and that’s because more and more Americans are learning the real history behind Christopher Columbus and his “discovery.”

First of all, Columbus didn’t actually discover the Americas, despite what you may have been taught in elementary school. Thanks to archaeological evidence, we know now that there were many other groups who traveled to the Americas long before Columbus did.

For example, back in the 10th century, the Vikings had settlements in what are now Greenland and Newfoundland. And, DNA evidence proves that Polynesians came to South America almost a century before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. So, Columbus’ “discovery” of the Americas wasn’t really a discovery at all.

But enough about the discovery. Let’s talk about the man himself, and what he did to the indigenous peoples that he found when he arrived in the New World. When Columbus set sail in 1492, he was on the hunt for gold to bring back to Europe, and eventually landed on an island known as Hispaniola, which today is the home of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Unfortunately, Columbus didn’t discover much gold on Hispaniola, but he did find something as good as it, if not better: people. And Columbus thought that the indigenous people that he discovered would make great slaves.

When Columbus discovered the Taino indigenous peoples of Hispaniola, he wrote back to the Spanish monarchs funding his voyage, saying that, “They are well-built, with good bodies and handsome features...They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane...They would make fine servants...With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want. Here there are so many of these slaves...although they are living things they are as good as gold...”

Over time, Columbus’ real actions in the Americas have been replaced by a warm-and-fuzzy coloring book story of a bold and brave explorer who set out to discover a new world. But in reality, as we have learned from writings of Christopher Columbus’ own men, the “bold explorer” raped, pillaged, enslaved, and slaughtered people just to get rich.

One of Columbus’ crewmen, Miguel Cuneo, wrote about the scene when Columbus arrived in Hispaniola for the second time, and thousands of Tainos, or what were referred to as Indians, came out to greet Columbus' ships. Cuneo wrote, “When our caravels...were to leave for Spain, we thousand six hundred male and female persons of those Indians...For those who remained, we let it be known [to the Spaniards] in the vicinity that anyone who wanted to take some of them could do so, to the amount desired, which was done.”

Cuneo also wrote that he took his own sex slave, a beautiful young girl, who in his own words, “resisted with all her strength,” leaving him with no choice but to, “thrash her mercilessly and rape her.”

Columbus eventually started up a global child-sex-slave trade, shipping off Indians to all corners of the globe. He even bragged about it to a friend in a letter written in 1500, saying that, “A hundred castellanoes (a Spanish coin) are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten (years old) are now in demand.”

Under Columbus’ rule, life for the Taino people became so bad that they resorted to mass suicide. Twenty-five years after Columbus had arrived in Hispaniola, the Spanish missionary Pedro Cordoba wrote that, “As a result of the suffering and hard labor they endured, the Indians choose and have chosen suicide. Occasionally a hundred have committed mass suicide. The women, exhausted by labor, have shunned conception and childbirth. Many, when pregnant, have taken something to abort and have aborted. Others after delivery have killed their children with their own hands, so as not to leave them in such oppressive slavery.”

Eventually, Columbus resorted to wiping out the Taino altogether. Prior to Columbus’ arrival in the New World, scholars place the population of Haiti/Hispaniola at around 1.5 to 3 million people. By 1496, it was down to 1.1 million, according to a census done by Bartholomew Columbus, Columbus’ brother. By 1516, the indigenous population was at 12,000, and by 1542, fewer than 200 natives were alive on Hispaniola. By 1555, every single native was dead. Every last one.

Knowing what we know now about Columbus’ real intentions and actions, its ridiculous to be celebrating a man who didn't actually discover anything, and who led a genocide of historic proportions. It’s time to put the shameful history of Columbus and his enslavement and murder of Native Americans behind us - and start celebrating the indigenous peoples who called the Americas home long before Columbus ever set sail.


DodgeA's picture
DodgeA 8 years 23 weeks ago

I think we should rename Columbus day to be after a true American Hero like Neil Armstrong and the people at NASA. This to me, being in education and loving space and science, is a true Hero that as Americans and the Human Race we should be proud of and for us to plant our feet on somewhere other then this planet is a huge deal and should be celebrated.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 8 years 23 weeks ago

Columbus Day is a travesty in every way. Explorer Amerigo Vespucci was much better, but I agree that having an Indigenous Peoples Day would be best.

By the way, my wife said that Chinese also visited the Americas, around 1,000 years ago.

ekurpiel's picture
ekurpiel 8 years 23 weeks ago

It has been known for many years that, not only was he not the first to visit America, but Columbus was an evil man. Yes, there are many heroes in the country, but none has been treated so horrifically as the Native Americans. And they continue to be largely ignored even now. Every state should do away with columbus day and institute Indiginous Peoples Day.

ekurpiel's picture
ekurpiel 8 years 23 weeks ago

There is a very interesting book regarding the Chinese arriving here first. The Chinese also gave us maps and other sailing advice that is invaluable even today.

leighmf's picture
leighmf 8 years 23 weeks ago

Why don't they change the school books to the historical truth?

FUBOM's picture
FUBOM 8 years 23 weeks ago

Truth? We couldn't handle the true history of the founding and expansion of the American Empire.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 23 weeks ago

I think the history books will be changed. So will the holiday. No one likes to be lied to; and, the truth will set us free. It is the first stage of healing. Besides, the cats out of the bag now. It is only a matter of time till the truth spreads. Then the rest will change naturally. There is no way this genie is going to be stuffed back into it's bottle.

Kend's picture
Kend 8 years 23 weeks ago

The truth is that aboriginals where taking over each other's territories, and poeple and using them as slaves long before Whitey came along. That was a long time ago when people where very cruel. Sadly this kind of stuff is still going on all over the world and a lot in Eastern Europe.

johnbest's picture
johnbest 8 years 23 weeks ago

I too think we should change Columbus Day to Indigenous People's Day.

I read where the Spanish later came to Florida and I believe the Carolina's looking for Gold. I read where they brutalized and murdered thousands of Native Americans in their search for the precious metal.

An interesting aside is that the Russians, of course, claimed Alaska then proceeded down the west coast establishing a fort in Northern California. I am not sure of the date however.

I didn't realize that the Chinese had visited North America. Very interesting.

johnbest's picture
johnbest 8 years 23 weeks ago

Here is an old ditty about Columbus from my elementary school days in San Francisco seventy years ago. We believed the hype as well.

In 1492 Columbus sailed the blue, he slipped on a rock and split his c__k and peed all over the crew.

johnbest's picture
johnbest 8 years 23 weeks ago

That's an excellent idea!

johnbest's picture
johnbest 8 years 23 weeks ago

The neotard's heads are exploding over our "War on Columbus". Good! Iive by the lie and die by the lie.

douglas m 8 years 23 weeks ago

Ive been to the dominican republic and know dominican citizens. Santi Domingo has great old history tours of Columbus. They all believe that Christopher Columbus was a real piece of s--t. The history proves it.

The only people that I know that celebrate it are the forced public schools in America.

The rest of the world seems to be pretty aware of it too.

I appreciated the history lesson. I knew most of that but wasnt aware of the chinese being here too.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 8 years 23 weeks ago

To be fair, discovery is worthless if not popularized.

There's something to suggest that a citizen of the Roman empire invented pyrex glass, but since it didn't catch on, he doesn't get the credit.

So while it's fair to say that Vikings or the Chinese discovered the New World, it's unfair to say that Columbus didn't have the real influence he did in getting the Old World to be aware of the New.

RFord's picture
RFord 8 years 23 weeks ago

The true story of Christaforo Columbo, (Columbus's true name), is an important one that should not be whitewashed by history books or history teachers. Only by teaching truthful history will people learn not to repeat bad history, like dictators that tried to dominate the world by using war, enslaving people to acomplish wealth and power, wipeing out species of animals like the Tazmainian Tiger, and wipeing out tribes of Native Americans as Columbus did. I like the Idea of Native American Day. It's long overdue.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 23 weeks ago

Indigenous Peoples' Day has my vote! Another Great American Myth has been debunked, and none too soon. - AIW

richinfolsom 8 years 23 weeks ago

Columbus. The Pilgrims. American Slavery. Native Americans forcibly marched to their emotionl and physical death. Chinese railroad builders of the Conentental Railroad. The Army raids on American coal miners. WWI - "the war to end all wars."Japanese internment. Auschwitz. Hiroshima. WWII 60 million dead. JFK. MLK. Bobby. Vietnam. Cambodia. Africa. ISIS.

We have met the enemy and he is us....

American Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry on September 10, 1813

k. allen's picture
k. allen 8 years 23 weeks ago

I know a guy who wants to turn the clock back a coupla hundred years - legal age for sex with girls was ... what ... 10 years ...?

Does anyone think this will amount to anything: ...?

BARBARA NECKER 8 years 23 weeks ago

It appears many people found their way to the Americas in olden times. The Europeans were a little late to the scene (except for the vikings), but when they finally got here, they stayed -- why, I wonder.

The Europeans not only stayed, but succeeded in grabbing the Northern continent for themselves. They couldn't enslave the Indians, so they satisfied themselves with sending the natives off to reservations & trying to destroy their culture & languages. They succeeded at this so well than many natives are trapped on reservations, deprived of their past & despairing of their future.

Yes, Columbus Day is not a day to be celebrated, but a day of shame. It's a day to reflect on the greed of the white race, for in the days of exploration, it struck in many different parts of the world.

BARBARA NECKER 8 years 23 weeks ago

Yep, several years ago I read about a Chinese admiral who came here a year or 2 before Columbus. I don't recall why they didn't stay. That's okay, though, greedy Americans corrected the error by importing Chinese workers when it came time to lay the railroad tracks across the country.

RichardofJeffersonCity's picture
RichardofJeffer... 8 years 23 weeks ago

It could be called the Day of the Forgotten. A day to remember all the unnamed people that have fallen victim to imperialism, conquest, nation building, wars, wealth interest, exploitation, disease, poverty, slavery and countless other acts in the name of progress. Those thing symbolize Columbus, much more than the fairytale presented to school children.

skepticelt's picture
skepticelt 8 years 23 weeks ago

I think that many people misunderstand why Columbus has gotten the nod for "discovering" America. It isn't that he was "here first"--which he wasn't. But that he came and went four times and brought back to Europe the KNOWLEDGE of new lands. Also, that he CONTINUED contact. It wasn't a quick visit by an unknown explorer who never went back and never lived in the new territory for any extended length of time. Contrary to public opinion, he DID know that lands he and Vespucci explored and FOUND were continents. He made a statement in his writings that if a South American river was not "The Celestial Sea" then it must come from a heretofore unknown continent. Did the Vikings do that???

Also, when C. went back to Spain after the first voyage, he left some crew behind because one of his ships had sunk. It was they who committed the first atrocities upon the Taino--in his absence!! He was furious and punished the men for their crimes.

As for Columbus getting the rap for decimating the population of the New World via introducing European/Old World diseases upon a population with no immunity, didn't the Vikings, the Irish, allegedly the Chinese, Polynesians and who knows who else arrive BEFORE Columbus??? So if they were here, they could have transferred diseases to the New World. I'm not excusing Columbus for his horrific leadership, but remember that he was a man of his times. Before the Spanish made slaves of people, so did the Romans, the Greeks, Africans, and virtually every early society known to man. Again, not excusing it, but let's keep things in perspective. Columbus was a man obsessed with a dream, of sailing west to go east to the East Indies. This was because other routes were cut off by the Muslims in the Levant, by the difficulty of much of the terrain, and by the cost of the trip. I totally agree we should have a celebration of the First People (as the Canadians call the indigenous people), but it was a monumental sea-change in the world when it was understood that two continents lay to the west of Europe & Africa. For this, Columbus, Vespucci, and other explorers DO deserve credit, not condemnation. It is an easy fad to bash Columbus. It's harder to think of all the nuances of his Age and the changes wrought in the world because the WORLD learned of his discoveries and continued exploration. Also, please know that America wasn't named for Amerigo Vespucci, but first appeared on a map in, I think, Antwerp. It was named for the "Americas" tribe of indigenous people who went extinct after European contact. I'd have to look the exact facts up. If it was named for Amerigo Vespucci, we'd all be living in Vespucci, not America. I'm a professional geographer, by the way, in case you're wondering where I'm coming from.

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 8 years 23 weeks ago

Celebrating Columbus Day is like celebrating Child Sex Abuse Day...

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 23 weeks ago

Gawd... You liberals are so UNPATRIOTIC!

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