We Shouldn't Honor Genocidal Colonialists-End Columbus Day Now

Today, while millions of people across America are celebrating Columbus Day, the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico is doing something different -- it’s celebrating Indigenous People’s Day.

It’s using the second Monday in October as a chance to raise awareness about the cultural contributions of the people who lived on this continent long before the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria crossed the Atlantic.

This decision might seem unusual, but it’s actually part of a growing trend.

Over the past few years, a number of cities and states have stopped celebrating Columbus Day and started doing what Albuquerque is doing -- celebrating Indigenous People’s Day [[http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/10/12/3711539/indigenous-peoples-day/]].

The reason they’re doing this simple: more and more people are realizing that the traditional story of Christopher Columbus and his so-called “discovery” of the Americas is a lie.

First off, Columbus didn’t actually discover the Americas, despite what you may have been taught in elementary school.

Hundreds of millions of Native peoples already called North and South America home when Columbus made landfall in the Caribbean islands, and thanks to archaeological evidence, we know now that many other groups - including Europeans - traveled to the Americas long before Columbus.

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 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 these people would make great slaves.

When Columbus met the Taino natives 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 gathered…one 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 and his fellow colonizers 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.

If Columbus was robbing, raping and pillaging Hispaniola today, we would probably be bombing him from the air.

He was the ISIS of his day and he justified his rape, murder, and pillage of the Americas with religion and funded his efforts with whatever he could steal.

And here’s the thing: Columbus’ genocide of the Taino was just the beginning.

Over the next few centuries, the European empires would perfect the brutality that Columbus put to such awful use on the island of Hispaniola and wipe out hundreds of millions of other Native American peoples.

Knowing what we know now about Columbus’ real actions and the role they played in the wholesale slaughter of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, it’s absurd to honor him with a holiday.

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.


Howard Laverne Stewart's picture
Howard Laverne ... 7 years 23 weeks ago

A Good God would not Let a Genocide of any kind happen.

Outback 7 years 23 weeks ago

There's been much discussion about creating a holiday for Election Day (The Tuesday following the first Monday in November). Maybe Columbus Day could be deleted in favor of this new holiday. It would serve to increase voter participation in national, state and local elections (something the right would hate, of course) plus end the stupidity of celebrating a documented sociopath, slave trader and murderer every year.

Judyfr 7 years 23 weeks ago

What are children taught about Columbus? I think the first thing we need to do is make sure our kids are told the truth and the history of the Columbus story along with all the evidence. By the way, did you read Kamal Abdul-Jabbar's article in the Oct. 5h issue of Time. It should be must reading for all.

cccccttttt 7 years 23 weeks ago

Tom's blog paints a brutally realistic account in contrast to the fairy taie

we were taught in school.

Lets hope Columbus day quickly gets a new name and a new theme.

However, there is a bigger pattern at play here.

Were not many tribes in the America's engaged in bloody warfare and a slave trade

for centuries just as went on in Europe?

If not for the rifle who would be telling fairy tales to their children?

Same pattern seems to be at play in the tribal wars of today.


Jussmartenuf's picture
Jussmartenuf 7 years 23 weeks ago

You got that right, Howard. God does not exist in the form beleived by so many billions. If there is a god he sure as hell does not protect the innocent and does not to this day. Jesus is an example, he was crucified for his beleif and millions others have been murdered under the same illogic of doing god's will. Genocide continues today, there is no good god, only belief driven by fear of death that seeks relief in fantasy. Definitely ready to take Columbus day off the calendar and make it Indiginous People's day to honor all those natives that were murdered in order to take their land.

RowlandS's picture
RowlandS 7 years 23 weeks ago

Just today I had the same thought. Why honor a European invader who enslaved and mutilated a race of friendly natives? If they did not bring him gold, he amputated their hands. A perusal of the first chapter of Howard Zinn's "Peoples' History of the United States" tells a tale far different from the one we learned in school. Let the truth be told, and let's give Columbus day a rest. He doesn't deserve a "day".

bev-lib's picture
bev-lib 7 years 23 weeks ago

I live in Albuquerque, but didn't notice any difference in how they celebrate today. Maybe they begain it in the public schools or on reservations. However, I agree. The lie is finished, and the original natives of this country need to be celebrated. Thanks for the heads up.

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 7 years 23 weeks ago

I love the irony that every year, people who rail against child sexual abuse, honor the memory of a man that profited from, and engaged in, child sexual abuse and slavery.

The epitome of religious hypocrisy.

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 7 years 23 weeks ago

According to Wikipedia ; "In April 1934, as a result of lobbying by the Knights of Columbus and New York City Italian leader Generoso Pope, Congress and FDR proclaimed October 12 a Federal Holiday under the name Columbus Day". A questionable action by Washington given the precipitous rise of fascism in Italy under the leadership of Benito Mussolini, a close colleague of Adolph Hitler, during that same period. Since 1970, the holiday has been fixed to the second Monday in October."

Yet another annual fleecing of taxpayers who have to pony up the dough to pay holiday benefits to federal employees. This long standing Federal Holiday was also extended to the U.S. banking industry based solely on the government's oversight role via the FDIC that was created a year before the holiday was established !

flyguy8650's picture
flyguy8650 7 years 23 weeks ago

GEEZ!!! The world is dying, the politicians are corrupt, the USA is becomming a whimp country and all we talk about is POLITICAL CORRECTNESS!!!


GIve me 1955 USA again!!

Political Correctness is a waste of time and energy.....get a life!!

mjolnir's picture
mjolnir 7 years 23 weeks ago

I've got no problem with telling the truth about Columbus but as a poster above points out we shouldn't candycoat the savagery that our own Natives displayed in the subgugation of other indigenous peoples.

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