Rethinking a national holiday

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The treatment of native people is ignored on Columbus Day. "Landing of Columbus" by John Vanderlyn.

Any day off school is a good day off school. Few students care what holiday is putting an end to school, yet some holidays make more sense than Columbus Day does.

Monday, students get a day to stay home and relax and celebrate the discovery of the New World in 1492. Christopher Columbus lead an expedition to bring land and wealth to the Spanish crown. The discovery of a land mass west of Europe was one of the biggest watershed moments in history.

Columbus was a great hero. He found a continent that was teeming with resources and rightfully claimed it as Spain’s which lead to greater discoveries and wealth to Europe. Or at least, that’s what this holiday seems to suggest.

What is often forgotten are the atrocities committed. Columbus made Europe a very wealthy place, he also made the Americas a very bloody place.

The native people on the islands on which Columbus arrived were slaughtered, raped, forced into slavery, and had their land taken.  

While not completely to blame for other countries’ brutality, Columbus set the tone for other countries’ colonizations. North and South America were populated with numerous native tribes. The numbers of how many people were here before 1492 is disputed, however; today only 2 percent of the population is Native American in America, according to the 2013 census.

Columbus’ actions led to a near eradication of native people on this continent. He was a ruthless explorer who had no problem killing thousands to line the pockets of the Spanish monarchy.

A day off school is good, but should we be taking this day off to celebrate this man? Does it make sense to have a national holiday honoring a man who stole and murdered for profit?

Various cities have already decided that the answer is no. In the past two months alone, eight cities including Albuquerque, New Mexico; Portland, Oregon; and St. Paul, Minnesota have replaced Columbus Day with a more fitting celebration: Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This is part of a growing trend which started in Berkeley, California in 1992 and more cities are following.

The plight of Native Americans has been censored enough from our history. The only true inhibitors of this country are now forgotten and given a fraction of land to call their own. Celebrating Oct. 12 as Columbus Day is not only offensive to native people who deserve better treatment, it also casts Americans in a poor light.

Countless other heroes in American history are more deserving of a national holiday. Native people have also played a pivotal role in American history without being honored. Navajo code talkers in WWII helped the U.S. fight against the Japanese. Rubber balls, chocolate, and even syringes were invented by Native Americans, according to National Geographic, and no recognition is ever given to them.

As a country of growing diversity, we must look at who our heroes in history actually are. Columbus accomplished a lot with his discovery, but we cannot overlook the crimes done on people deserving more recognition.