October 12 is the date of the federal holiday known as Columbus Day. However, due to Christopher Columbus’ numerous acts of cruelty against the native populations of the Americas, some regions have stopped using his name in connection to the federally observed holiday.
Instead, some refer to the day as National Indigenous People’s day in acknowledgment of the people harmed by Columbus’ actions.
As such, the day is now treated less as a celebration of Columbus and more as an opportunity to educate people about the history of the Americas and the indigenous cultures who have called this continent home for thousands of years.
Columbus Day History
Christopher Columbus is largely said to have discovered the Americas in 1492, though that description is a euro-centric inaccuracy. In reality, people already lived in the Americas for hundreds of years long before Columbus sailed across the Atlantic.
What Columbus actually did is find the most efficient route to a region that Europeans assumed was across the ocean but were unsure of the exact location of.
Hundreds of years before Columbus’ journey, Nordic explorers had made landfall in regions as far west as Greenland, which is in North America. Moreover, explorers throughout history had made various journeys that brought them to the Americas. Few of them realized the size and scale of the continents they were sailing near.
The Importance of Columbus
Columbus’ voyage served as the start of European colonization of the Americas, which began the era of history in which we still live. As such, he is an important historic figure, though few modern scholars view him in the heroic light is sometimes portrayed in. His numerous atrocities committed against Native Americans have made him a controversial figure, at best, among much of the US.
Others have pointed out that Columbus was also a poor navigator, far from the mythical image of him conjured in some revisionist history. When his ships landed in the Caribbean, he thought he was in India, a continent that was thousands of miles from his actual location.
Columbus beleived he had circumnavigated the globe and found a new trade route to the populous Indian continent, hence the long-standing misnaming of Native Americans as “Indians”.
In the modern era, a common form of observance of Indigenous People’s Day is to educate oneself on the history of the Americans and on modern-day Native American struggles. To this day, the Native population of the United States is mistreated greatly.
Reservations are often underfunded, and the Native American population is one of the most underrepresented minorities at the federal level.