Columbus Day – Celebrate a Murderer?

Opinion on Columbus Day

On the second Monday of October, every year in the United States since as early as 1792 and officially since 1937, Columbus Day has been celebrated; however, in recent years, numerous states have taken to observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day rather than, or in addition to, Columbus Day. The change to the holiday has been an alleviation and ailment to the Indigenous and Italian communities, raising conflicts in which holiday we should celebrate.

Observing a holiday for Christopher Columbus begs the question, “if we celebrate someone who, directly and indirectly, was responsible for the demise of entire communities, then who qualifies as deserving of a holiday?” Is Amerigo Vespucci, for whom America is named, worthy of a federal holiday? Should Mexicans follow suit and celebrate Hernán Cortés, then, despite his annihilation of the Aztecs? Giving a polarizing man a holiday raises uncertainty surrounding who/what should or should not be celebrated.

Continuing on, being in the United States and actively celebrating a holiday that is *intended* to commemorate the man responsible for the (accidental) discovery of America–despite his never stepping foot in the U.S.–comes off as a massive backhand to native people, as this “discovery” came at the cost of many of their ancestors’ lives. Not counting the other causes of death, roughly 90% of indigenous peoples died in the aftermath of Columbus and his crew’s arrival. Diseases–smallpox, measles, influenza, etc.–did the vast majority of the work, killing millions due to lack of immunity caused by a lack of exposure.

Columbus Day is frequently celebrated by floats, parades, statues, parties, etc. Surely such festivities would be much better spent honoring the indigenous history and the millions of natives who pioneered the Americas before any Europeans were even aware of its existence.