For the past 81 years, the United States has celebrated an explorer who is responsible for the enslavement and genocide of America’s indigenous peoples.
As we observe Columbus Day on Oct. 8, it is important to recognize the history of the man behind the holiday.
Christopher Columbus’ treatment of Native Americans and false discovery should not be overlooked.
Mark Anthony Rolo, Director of the Native American Journalists Association, said Columbus was responsible for widespread genocide as well as permitting his men to rape, murder, mutilate and enslave indigenous people.
Columbus refers to the natives strictly as items of trade rather than human beings in his letters. In a 1493 letter to the British monarchs, Columbus wrote, “They would make fine servants . . . with fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”
James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, wrote, “In the early years of Columbus’ conquests, there were butcher shops throughout the Caribbean where Indian bodies were sold as dog food. Live babies were also fed to these dogs as sport, sometimes in front of their horrified parents.”
The rape of women and young indigenous girls was common among Columbus’ men, and viewed as a reward.
According to a letter written by Michele de Cuneo, a 15th century navigator, “Columbus was rewarding his lieutenants with native women to rape.”
Columbus wrote in 1500, “There are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand.”
Aside from sexual slavery, Columbus and his crew brought with them strains of smallpox, measles and influenza. The diseases wiped out nearly 90 percent of the population, according to Russell Freedom, author of Who Was First? Discovering the Americas.
Students in elementary schools across the country are taught that Columbus discovered America in 1492, but this narrative has been proven false.
Evidence has surfaced supporting the theory that a band of Vikings set foot on the New World nearly five hundred years before Columbus.
According Freedom, the Viking band led by Leif Eriksson established a settlement on the northern tip of Newfoundland.
A group of scholars led by Gavin Menzies, a retired British Naval officer, has speculated that evidence based on shipwrecks, Chinese maps and navigators’ accounts supports the theory that the Chinese made landfall in the Americas in 1421.
“We know now that Columbus was among the last explorers to reach the Americas, not the first,” Freedom wrote.
Columbus did not discover America; he opened America up to Europe.
It is clear that neither Columbus nor the Vikings were the first to reach America. This way of thinking supports a Eurocentric viewpoint.
Native Americans inhabited the Americas long before explorers set foot on their lands.
America has always been a land of immigrants dating back to the Stone Age when hunters first set foot on what was truly a New World.
Columbus Day became a national holiday in 1937, but several states have since denounced its observation. Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Oregon, South Dakota, and Vermont mark the day with an alternative holiday or observance, including Indigenous People’s Day and Native American Day.
As we continue to honor a man who is responsible for the torture and slaughter of American Indians, we are only masking the truth about how our country was formed.