The second Monday in October is celebrated nationally as Columbus Day, which has been a federal holiday since 1937.
Originally designated to celebrate Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” of America, post offices and banks are closed, and stores hold major sales. Children are taught that Columbus is a hero, but since then, we’ve learned the history of America on our terms and realized that the picture they painted for us wasn’t exactly as accurate as we once thought.
Armed with this knowledge, many have fought (and won) over the last decade to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead. Here are 10 lies and truths about Christopher Columbus that made us decide to throw away Columbus Day forever.
Columbus Didn’t Discover Sh*t
For starters, Christopher Columbus didn’t discover anything. How can you discover a land that ALREADY HAS inhabitants?! On his first trip in 1492, Columbus encountered the indigenous Lucayan Taíno/Arawak on Guanahani (today’s San Salvador Island in the Bahamas).
The Indigenous Saved Columbus’s Life
Christopher Columbus didn’t even discover Guanahani (today’s San Salvador Island) in 1492. The natives found him while he was lost at sea. Columbus actually thought he was in the East Indies.
Columbus Stole Indigenous Land
Not only did Christopher Columbus not discover anything, but he had zero respect for those who already lived in the areas he visited. Upon landing on Guanahani; on October 12, 1492; he claimed the land for Spain, despite it already being indigenous land.
Columbus Never Set Foot in North America
The United States celebrates Columbus hardcore every year and children are taught all about his legacy, but he never actually stepped foot in North America. How weird is that?! It is much more fitting for us to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day since indigenous peoples were here in the U.S. been before anyone else.
Columbus Wasn’t Even the First Explorer to Arrive in the Americas
Christopher Columbus wasn’t even the first European explorer to arrive in the Americas! The Vikings, led by Leif Erikson, sailed to Newfoundland, Canada, in 1000 A.D. There are also theories that the Irish arrived far before the Vikings, and that the Chinese and Polynesians may have also visited the Americas before Columbus.
He Committed Vast Atrocities
Immediately upon arrival, Columbus noted that the natives he encountered were kind and giving … and that he planned to use that kindness against them. What resulted was genocide, rape, mutilations and a variety of other atrocities.
He Was Arrested by Spain for His Behavior
Christopher Columbus’s behavior (including cutting off natives’ hands if they didn’t gather enough gold) was so atrocious that he and his brothers were arrested (after complaints by Spanish settlers and friars), and sent back to Spain in chains in 1500. Still, he was later pardoned by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain after serving just six weeks in prison and had a fourth voyage subsidized.
He Was an Initiator of Indigenous Slave Trade
Christopher Columbus was a horrendous person who enslaved the indigenous peoples of the lands he traveled to. He was the first to send people (as slaves) across the Atlantic to Spain.
What About the Niño Brothers?
Christopher Columbus wouldn’t have arrived to the Americas without the assistance of the Niño Brothers, a Spanish family of African descent. Pedro (Peralonso) Alonso, Francisco, and Juan were integral to Columbus’s voyages (other brother Bartolome was also a sailor). Pedro Alonso was the pilot of the Santa Maria during Columbus’s first trip. Juan was master and owner of the Niña, where Francisco is believed to have been a sailor/part of the crew (the brothers were also said to have taken part in Columbus’s second and third voyages). Despite these facts, we aren’t taught about the Niño brothers.
We Celebrate a Murderous Undocumented Immigrant While Disparaging Hardworking & Honest Undocumented Immigrants Today
In one of the biggest ironies and hypocrisies of American history, we are asked to celebrate one undocumented immigrant who committed so many crimes it’s difficult to actually catalog them, while our government simultaneously separates and deports honest, hardworking families who are undocumented. No, thanks. We’d rather celebrate indigenous peoples, the original, real natives of America.