Time to celebrate indigenous people, not Columbus


Drawing by Natalie Merhib

Every second Monday of October, the country observes Columbus Day. Recently, more states and towns are celebrating Indigenous People’s Day instead.

We all know the rhyme: 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Every second Monday in October, we acknowledge Columbus’ achievement of colonizing the Americas. However, he doesn’t deserve the praise that he gets.

The Americas were already settled by Indiginous people as far back as 13,000 years ago. So why are we celebrating a man who enslaved and killed thousands of natives in a quest for power? Instead of dedicating a day to a homicidal colonizer, we need to honor the First Peoples who called North America home before us.

When Columbus landed in what is now the Bahamas, he was met with the Taino people. Written in his journal, Columbus decided he had to convert them to Christianity, and made them his servants. Taino men were forced into labor for the Spaniards, which resulted in a reduction of farming and forced the tribe into starvation. 

Unfortunately, this example was only one of the several horrible ways the Taino were killed due to Columbus’ influence. The natives weren’t immune to diseases that the Spaniards carried, such as smallpox, and as a result, mass deaths occurred due to lack of immunity. If the Taino weren’t forced to flee to more remote lands, the Tainos died by fighting the Spaniards or even resorting to suicide.

But Christopher Columbus was a good dude, right? He braved the unknown and discovered the New World for Europeans! He is the reason we live in America!

Also false. There is new evidence to suggest Vikings were the first Europeans to set foot in North America, nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus was even born.

The first recorded Columbus Day was in 1792, when racism and slavery were an everyday part of America. Today, slavery is outlawed in the US, but racism is still alive and ever present. More people know about Christopher Columbus and his “achievements” rather than information about the Indigenous  people who came far before him.

Columbus Day is still a federal holiday, but Vermont and some towns in New Hampshire are starting to celebrate Indigenous  People’s Day. It is time more people understand that Columbus presided over the murder and torment of thousands of innocent Tainos. Columbus is not the hero he’s portrayed as.

Columbus shouldn’t be celebrated. The voices of the Indigenous, however, deserve to be uplifted and celebrated. We as a nation should embrace Indigenous People’s Day instead of honoring a man undeserving of any praise.