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The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Opinion: Columbus Day, a celebration of death and deception

Opinion%3A+Columbus+Day%2C+a+celebration+of+death+and+deception
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For almost two centuries, Columbus Day has been a celebrated holiday throughout the United States. But a day like this, which idolizes a history of violence and destruction, should not be celebrated. It is an insult to the Indigenous peoples whose lives and homes were ruined by colonizers, and to the history of this nation. 

Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. He landed in what he assumed to be “America” on Oct. 12, 1492, a day that has been unofficially celebrated since the 18th century, according to History.com. The day officially became a federal holiday in 1937, even though historians now know this to be a false celebration.
Columbus did not land on continental North America on that day. He crashed his boat onto an island in the Bahamas, just off the coast between Florida and Cuba. 

He also didn’t discover the land at all. Instead, he invaded the homes of Indigenous people, stole their crops and gold and took human captives. A viking in the 11th century had also been the first known European to step foot on the land of “the New World” well before Columbus, according to History.com. 

This expedition resulted in the spread of foreign diseases throughout Indigenous communities, which killed many– contributed to the start of the transatlantic slave trade, according to History.com.

This trade continued for almost another four centuries until it finally became illegal in all countries worldwide in the 1860s. The slave trade also continued to function illegally well after this date, according to ABC.news.

In elementary schools, children are taught to idolize Christopher Columbus as the founder of the “New World,” and learn the classic rhyme, “in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” They are not told about the lives he destroyed, the families he tore apart and people he slaughtered. 

Though it is nearly impossible to determine just how many lives were lost as a result of Columbus’s landing and the centuries of colonization that followed due to the lack of documentation, it is estimated that about 55 million people, or 90% of the Indigenous population in North America, were killed by the colonizers or the diseases they carried, according to Business Insider. 

The holiday should be federally changed to “Indigeneous Peoples’ Day” to honor these victims. There has already been support from many cities and individuals about the holiday change for years. 

Some universities, including Suffolk University, have the day listed as “October Break” on their academic calendar. Harvard University has it listed as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” while others like Boston University still have it listed as “Columbus Day.” 

American universities and the country should not recognize a holiday that memorializes a serial killer.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day would help dismantle the lies surrounding  Columbus and the support of his actions. It would also pay tribute to the lives lost and the families who were separated as a result of European colonization. While this wouldn’t take back the damage done, it would send the message to current remaining Indigenous tribes and communities that the United States does not support this kind of behavior and acknowledges their pain. 

Most holidays are about  celebration; celebration of something happy or inspirational or monumental to the country. But the second Monday of October should be a memorial for the lives lost when Columbus landed in the Bahamas, and the centuries of bloody colonization that followed.

This holiday change could also play an important role in the education of the next generation of U.S. If children in elementary school are taught the importance of telling the truth and owning up to harmful behaviors, especially through the lens of historical figures, it could make the world a much better place.  

Follow Alida on Twitter @AlidaBenoit.

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About the Contributor
Alida Benoit
Alida Benoit, Asst. Arts & Culture Editor | she/her
Alida is a sophomore Graphic Design major from Brunswick, Maine. Her passions include reading, writing, listening to music, and playing with her dog, Sirius Black. After graduation, she hopes to work for a publishing company and travel the world. Follow Alida on Twitter @AlidaBenoit  
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  • K

    Kenneth MartinOct 13, 2020 at 10:26 am

    Have I got it wrong? I thought Columbus assume his landing to be in India? The name America was used in reference to the cartographer Amerigo Vespucci, later. I don’t disagree with your opinion though.

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Opinion: Columbus Day, a celebration of death and deception