Why is There Still a Columbus Day?


Columbus “proving” the Earth is round with a globe

Matthew Messina

There’s a lot of rewards you can give a hero to cement their name into history. You can give them a street sign, the name of a town, the name of a state, but you have to be an absolute legend to have a DAY named after you. If we are talking about the confines of the US of A, many heroes are deserving of a day named after them. FDR cured the economy during the Great Depression and set the groundwork for us to win WWII. Henry Ford changed the union, making the 40-hour workweek standard, and popularized the car. Jesse Owens won 4 gold medals in Berlin, Nazi Germany in 1936. He stuck it to Hitler who only had Aryans in the Olympics, and he thought he had most medals in the bag. It was even more crushing since Jesse Owens was black. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and brought the country back together during the civil war. Martin Luthor King Jr has a day already, which I think is fitting. You could argue that this should just be a civil rights day, but MLK having a holiday doesn’t bother me.

However, another important man in American history who has a holiday is Christopher Columbus. Out of everybody I just mentioned, his legacy seems to be the most questionable. Ever since kindergarten, in my perspective at least, Columbus was portrayed as an American legend who sailed the ocean blue in 1492.

But in reality, we now know that Columbus had no intention to hit America. He begged the king and queen of Spain to let him take a boat to India, going the opposite way. That is obviously foolish, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt for now. First of all, Columbus didn’t prove the Earth was round, because it was already common knowledge at the time. Secondly, when he accidentally hit the Bahamas, he still thought he had reached India, ahead of schedule. That may seem innocent and silly until you realize what came next. Columbus immediately brought back more ships from Spain and began pillaging the Native Americans. Remember, he thought they were Indians who had bountiful amounts of gold. The Native Americans were wearing gold for fashion but didn’t have the bountiful amount Columbus expected. He knew in his heart that they were lying to him, so he killed them all. He began pillaging every island in the Caribbean and died thinking he reached America.

From where I’m sitting, I have no idea why we idolize Columbus. Leif Erickson was actually the Viking to discover America’s. I typically try to be unbiased during my articles, but I tried to find positivity in Columbus… but I couldn’t find it.

A few parts of the country have already changed Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. The states of Florida, Hawaii, Alaska, Vermont, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Maine have replaced it (in Hawaii, Discoverers’ Day, in South Dakota, Native American Day). Indigenous Peoples Day is a day to remember the Native Americans who were slaughtered by Columbus men. I like this change because it protests the historical conquest of North America by Europeans, and calls attention to the losses suffered by the Native American peoples and their cultures through diseases, warfare, massacres, and forced assimilation.

So don’t be surprised if the holiday is altered in your lifetime.