Stop celebrating Columbus Day

Illustration: Madalyn Drewno - CU Sentry


There is debate on whether Columbus Day should continue to be celebrated in a modernist society; revisionist history proves that Christopher Columbus should not be celebrated. There should no longer be a holiday that celebrates a person who not only is credited for achievements he never did, but also a person who used prejudice against natives to achieve his aims in the New World.

Illustration: Madalyn Drewno – CU Sentry

Columbus Day is an American holiday created in 1937 that commemorates the landing of Christopher Columbus in what was at the time called the “New World.” A quick skim over some readings on exploration history will reveal that Columbus never actually made contact with North America and instead landed on various Caribbean islands. Also, according to Smithsonian Magazine, Leif Erikson reached North America (more specifically, Canada) nearly 500 years before Columbus. Down low (latitudinally), too slow (chronologically) for Columbus.

Many achievements are often erroneously attributed to Columbus, such as discovering America and proving that the world is round. According to researchers at the Florida Museum, a review of Columbus’ diary shows that he may have skewed information about first contact with the indigenous peoples to impose his own ideals of them as “savages;” it is not believed that native aggression was due to intertribal communications about Spanish atrocities from neighboring tribes. This later led to the justification of enslaving massive groups of natives because of Columbus’ reports and all indigenous people were wrongly seen as savages and even cannibals.

On the other hand, some argue that Columbus Day should continue to be honored. The Order of Sons of Italy in America argue that because of the sentimental connection of the holiday within the US it should be celebrated. The United States has long celebrated Columbus Day and many artifacts of the explorer are kept in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania such as his desk, papers, and the cross used to claim where he landed in the New World for Spain.

Despite the sentimental connection that exists for Columbus Day to endure, the history surrounding Christopher Columbus has taught an untrue, errored narrative that perpetuates the myth of a single man discovering a world when in reality he was not “the first discoverer” and his actions and reports to Spain led to prejudice and atrocities against the indigenous people he contacted.

A possible solution would be to follow in the steps of other states and no longer celebrate Columbus Day as an act of colonialism’s long-lasting influence but instead celebrate “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” In the United States, the states of Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, South Dakota, and Vermont do not recognize Columbus Day; Hawaii, South Dakota, and Vermont instead practice Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Local governments have moved to shift to an alternative holiday—including the city of Denver. Ultimately, the United States must become more progressive and instead of celebrating a holiday of colonialism, choose to celebrate a holiday of multiculturalism and appreciate indigenous peoples and the first people of our nation.

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