A world away from historical truth

Nov. 7, 2004, midnight | By Rocky Hadadi | 17 years, 6 months ago

Oct. 12, 1492 is not a day for celebration

"In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue—Columbus was brave and he was bright; we cheer for him and say hooray, especially on Columbus Day." Unfortunately for kindergarten classes everywhere, the truth about Columbus Day is much different.

Almost everyone knows why we honor Columbus on the second Monday of October: He "found" America, helping to introduce North and South America into the international community. Unfortunately, millions of Americans don't realize that we have been honoring the wrong person for years and ignoring those who deserve our real gratitude. By the time Columbus "discovered" America, the land had already been inhabited with natives who had lived there for decades. In fact, Columbus was not even the first newcomer to set foot upon these lands—evidence suggests that explorer Leif Eriksson's journey in the 11th century was successful, to say nothing of the Chinese expedition to America 72 years before Columbus.

What is important to remember about Columbus Day is the type of man that Columbus was and the behavior that he exhibited during his life. In his journals, he describes the way the natives greet him upon his arrival: "They are the best people in the world, and above all, the gentlest—without knowledge of what is evil; nor do they murder and steal. They love their neighbors as themselves, and they have the sweetest talk in the world, always laughing." However, Columbus's true nature was revealed in a letter he would send to a friend back in Spain: "With 50 men, we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want," he writes. And the point Columbus Day conveniently overlooks? He did.

Social studies teacher David Whitacre agrees with this notion. "[Columbus Day] is a celebration of destruction, not discovery," he says. "Ten to 50 million people and their cultures were subjected to conquest, not contact." To help prove his point of "balancing out the cultural propaganda fed to us in our schools," Whitacre took his Cultural Anthropology class to the recently-opened National Museum of the American Indian on Columbus Day.

With reminders like the Museum of the American Indian and with the true nature of Columbus's legacy available to anyone willing to look outside of a standard history textbook, it is a mystery as to why such a man would continue to be honored by our nation. Are we the type of country that finds it fitting to honor a man who, between the 15th and 17th centuries, indirectly killed more than eight million Arawak Indians through torture, murder, forced labor, starvation, disease and despair? By the year 1650, no traces of the original Arawak Indians—or any of their descendants—remained; Columbus had begun a legacy of racism, bloodshed and violence that would continue to be supported throughout the Americas. The character of a nation can be seen by those it chooses to honor and respect; it is an unanswerable question, then, as to why the United States of America chooses to celebrate a man who held none of the standard American ideals like equality, honesty and compassion.

Instead of discarding the notion of Columbus Day, it is important that we teach our nation about the true history of his voyage and be honest about the actual events of 1492 and the decades that followed. In addition to educating generations to come about Columbus' legacy of devastation, we should also celebrate the true discoverers of the Americas: the Arawak Indians and the other Native American groups that still inhabit the Americas today. Only through an understanding of the great harm caused by Columbus and his "discovery" on Oct. 12, 1492 can we begin to appreciate the original founders of America.

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Rocky Hadadi. So, Rocky Hadadi has a very small life. She likes Baz Luhrmann. She likes Rancid. She wants to have John Frusciante's lovechild of guitar solos. Her interests include: meaningful friendships with CAP girls, exceptional Magnet amigos, track suits, aquamarine, Chucks, velvet Docs, painting random crap … More »

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