Earlier this month, Americans were called on to celebrate Columbus Day, in honor of the Italian explorer Christoforo Colombo, who, while employed by Spain, accidentally discovered the Bahamas. In 1492, it is estimated that there were as many people living in the Americas as in Europe and Africa combined. Columbus didn’t discover America.
In 1905, Colorado was the first state to celebrate the anniversary of this event; it became a federal holiday in 1934. Columbus Day is the only federal holiday that honors a foreigner, besides Christmas.
Why celebrate Columbus’ legacy as we do? There are thousands of more admirable individuals in our own history who deserve this kind of reverence. Alternately, there are other proposed holidays to replace Columbus with, including Indigenous People’s Day and Explorer’s Day.
If we wish to honor our neighbors and treat them kindly, as we say we do, and if we want our children to be educated about the facts of history, as we say we do, then we should do away with Columbus Day. The holiday is a symbol of the cockeyed legends that we tell ourselves in order to avoid confronting our treatment of Native Americans in their homelands.
On a local level, we can ask our leaders to follow the progressive example of South Dakota in removing Columbus Day as a holiday. Doing so isn’t politically correct — it’s an acknowledgment that we of European extraction have led ourselves astray through our damaging mythologies. Abolishing Columbus Day will be a brave step forward.
Ole Bye, Dolores