Although Italian navigator Christopher Columbus has been credited with discovering America, he wasn’t even the first European explorer to land on U.S. shores. Despite that, there has been a national holiday in his honor since in 1937, and the story of his first voyage to the Americas with the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria appeared in textbooks for years.
As you may now know, Columbus did not discover America. It is largely argued that American history does not start with him because natives had been inhabiting the land for centuries before his arrival. By acknowledging Columbus as the “discoverer” of our nation, the country erases the history and culture of the Native American people. Furthermore, it also honors a man who arrived in a “new world” and facilitated genocide, rape and the pillaging of land.
According to Newsweek, the explorer and many other Europeans believed “monstrous races” existed in other parts of the world. After sailing across the Atlantic Ocean—and landing in the West Indies and not East Asia, as intended—Columbus wrote, “discovered a great many islands inhabited by people without number.” While he praised the natural wonders, he also stated, “I have not found any monstrous men in these islands, as many had thought.” Nonetheless, he kidnapped and enslaved people from the Caribbean shores.
As society has become more aware of the struggles of oppressed groups, people have also begun to revise history. In 2018, close to one dozen US cities including San Francisco and Cincinnati stopped celebrating Columbus Day; instead, they observed Indigenous Peoples’ Day to honor the culture and history of Native Americans.
The holiday began in South Dakota in 1989 as a part of the reconciliation between the government and the Native American tribes of the region. Three years later, on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival, it was established in Berkeley, California.
Although a number of other cities and states are recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day, is not a federal holiday. On Monday, many prominent figures, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and television producer Shonda Rhimes fact-checked Columbus history and pushed for Indigenous Peoples’ Day to be instituted by the government.
Columbus Day has been a national holiday since 1937, but activists like @Ms_EagleHeart say it’s “demeaning,” and argue it should instead be called #IndigenousPeoplesDay2018. pic.twitter.com/WPQggqIAo3
— Mic (@mic) October 8, 2018
For many thousand years before Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic, there were millions of people living on the land that was to become the United States. He didn't discover anything. America is a stolen country. #ColumbusDay must be renamed #IndigenousPeoplesDay2018. pic.twitter.com/bzERyoy55n
— Dr. Craig Considine (@CraigCons) October 8, 2018
Today and every day, we must remember the indigenous people who were here long before us and the suffering they've endured — and continue to endure to this day. Let’s celebrate their strength and honor the contributions they’ve made to our nation. https://t.co/1ZWBGbWgVr
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) October 8, 2018
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 8, 2018
Me: Who discovered America?
9-year-old: You mean before Columbus killed the Native Americans?🤔
9: Well, Native Americans
If my 9 year old can understand Columbus was a genocidal maniac, and this land was of the Indigenous People—so can you#IndigenousPeopleDay2018
— Qasim Rashid, Esq. (@QasimRashid) October 8, 2018
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) October 8, 2018
Columbus was a terrorist and his son should’ve been crucified and burned at the stake.
Fuck that guy. He doesn’t represent in anyway the Italy and the Italians that we all know and love TODAY.
Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!
— TAPE TAPE & HOUSE EP NOW PLAYING (@LupeFiasco) October 8, 2018
— First We Feast (@firstwefeast) October 8, 2018
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.