The Controversy of Columbus Day

The Controversy of Columbus Day in the United States
The Controversy of Columbus Day in the United States

Christopher Columbus: The Controversy

The second Monday of October is celebrated in the United States as Columbus Day. The holiday was officially proclaimed by Richard Nixon in the 1970s to honor the man who sailed the ocean blue in search on a new world. The new world found by Christopher Columbus was of course the Americas and his finding led to the European development and settling of the countries that now make up North and South America.

But many do not believe that Christopher Columbus is worthy of honor. Many argue that he was man who enslaved the inhabitants of the new world he found and started a legacy of oppression and hardship that still can found today. This is the controversy of Columbus Day.

Columbus Did Discovery A New World
Columbus Did Discovery A New World
Upon Finding The Inhabitants Of The New World, Columbus Enslaved Them By Force
Upon Finding The Inhabitants Of The New World, Columbus Enslaved Them By Force

Historical Background

Christopher Columbus was born in 1451 and was a navigator, colonizer and explorer who are best remembered as the man who found the Americas while looking for an alternative trade routes to India and China. In 1492 he defied contemporaneous thinking about the world and sailed west from Spain across the Atlantic Ocean. His discovery and subsequent three voyages began European settlement of the Americas.

It is what Columbus did while trying to establish permanent settlements in the new world that leads to the controversies surrounding an official day of remembrance in Columbus’ name. Upon arriving in the new world, Columbus made contact with the inhabitants of the lands he discovered. Because he believed he was in India, he named the inhabitants Indians.

And upon meeting these Indians, Columbus enslaved them and believing that they were savage forced them to convert to Christianity. He did this in pursuit of fame and fortune. These facts are not in dispute. However, even more, Columbus represents to beginning of European colonization of the Americas that brought unfettered slavery, disease and destruction of the Native cultures.

Indigenous People's Day
Indigenous People's Day

Indigenous People’s Day

Groups who oppose an official holiday honoring Columbus use Columbus Day to protest but also use it to raise awareness to issues important to the plight of Native Americans today. With this purpose in mind, in 1977 a new idea was born at a conference on discrimination against indigenous peoples of the Americas held by the United Nations. The idea was to promote an alternative day of remembrance to be held on the day designated Columbus Day. The day became known as Indigenous Peoples Day. The stand officially is designated as a day to stand in “solidarity with Indigenous People.” The City of Berkeley, California has officially declared an Indigenous People’s day. The day is used to celebrate Native culture and raise awareness to the problems faced by Native Americans today.

There Must Be A Common Ground To Celebrate Both
There Must Be A Common Ground To Celebrate Both

Is There A Middle Ground?

There is no doubt that Christopher Columbus has a mixed past. He did much to destroy to the culture and lives of Native Americans all across the Americas, but he also changed the world with his discovery of the new world. And many would argue that the world was changed for the better with the settlement of the new world and the freedoms this new world granted to millions centuries later. Both sides have valid arguments. So why both sides of the argument can’t be celebrated and remembered? Columbus Day should be used to honor a man who changed the world but to also remember that not all the changes were positive.

More by this Author


Comments 17 comments

James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

Columbus has been a Federal Holiday since 1934. All Nixon did was change from October 12th to the 2nd Monday of October so federal employees could have a 3 day weekend. It has been celebrated in the United States for over 150 years (from before the time the "official" holiday craze began). Columbus Day is observed throughout the Western Hemisphere and in Spain and has been for even longer than in the U.S. Your inference seemed to be that Tricky Dick was sitting around one day and thought, "Hey! Wouldn't it be neat to honor Columbus!?"


bgpappa profile image

bgpappa 7 years ago from Sacramento, California Author

James, thanks for the comment.

Just summarizing the official status. Moved from October 12 to the second Monday as you stated. Didn't think what the official date in the past was really all that important to the title. I have another that talks about the origins.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

Didn't mean to be contrary as my comment sounds, re-reading it. I think Columbus is honored because he changed the world in a profound way and was one of the most bravest people ever. Flawed? Of course! Who isn't!? Thanks. It's a good article.


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 7 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Well he didn't exactly discover a New World. Leif Erickson and his cronies did. But they didn't name the native population nor did they enslave them. They just hung around for awhile and moved on. Saying discover is pretty much an ego trip for Columbus.

"Despite the common belief that in 1492 Italian-Spanish navigator Christopher Columbus became the first European to reach North America, most historians and archaeologists believe that Viking navigators, by way of Iceland and outposts in Greenland, established settlements in North America as early as about 1000. A 1964 National Geographic article details the 1963 discovery of a Viking settlement by Norwegian explorer and writer Helge Ingstad and Norwegian archaeologist Anne Stine Ingstad in the modern-day province of Newfoundland, Canada, near a fishing village named L'Anse au Meadow."


bgpappa profile image

bgpappa 7 years ago from Sacramento, California Author

James, no worries.

And I agree, he should be honored. Yes, there were people here already, and Vikings here before Columbus. But Columbus' discovery did change the world, for good and bad. My point is to just remember the entire context.

Thank you both for your comments.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

Whatever one wants to think of Columbus, the world was never the same again. That must mean something. And if it earns some people a three day weekend, I'm all for it.


bgpappa profile image

bgpappa 7 years ago from Sacramento, California Author

I agree, he did change the world and the good he did should be remembered. I am just saying to not forget the other stuff as well.

Thanks for the comment.


jxb7076 profile image

jxb7076 7 years ago from United States of America

bgpappa - I think the name 'Columbus' has, over the past century, become a very controversial name and any discussion either historical or social is now on the same controversial level of religion and politics. While I dissagree with most of the accolades given Columbus, (as certainly others before him should be recognized as well), I do believe his 'discovery' such as it was must be recognized as it changed the course of mankind which those before him did not achieve. His treatment of the natives, while inexcusable, was no more profound than any conquerer of previous dynasties, countries, nations, or colonies. Unfortunately, that was/is the nature of man which continues in remote locations across the globe.

I think Columbus deserves his day as it is not Columbus - per se - that's being celebrated - it's what he represented at the time which was the need for freedom, exploration, and survival. It's the same desires which takes us to the moon and far beyond our immediate galaxy.


bgpappa profile image

bgpappa 7 years ago from Sacramento, California Author

Well said Jx

Thanks for the comment.


jxb7076 profile image

jxb7076 7 years ago from United States of America

bgpappa - by the way, I noticed you changed your picture. Which is the real you!!? :)


bgpappa profile image

bgpappa 7 years ago from Sacramento, California Author

jx.

The good looking guy is me. Thanks for reading.


Aishah Bowron 6 years ago

I wish Christopher Columbus was hanged around his neck until he's dead !. He is a genocidal serial killer !.


bgpappa profile image

bgpappa 6 years ago from Sacramento, California Author

Wow, a few centuries late, but ok

THanks for reading.


ruffridyer 5 years ago from Dayton, ohio

If Columbus would have treated the people he found with dignity and respect then would the explorers that followed have treated the natives better too?... Doubtfull.


bgpappa profile image

bgpappa 5 years ago from Sacramento, California Author

Fair point Ruff. I am literally split down on the middle of this one.

Thanks for reading


someone 4 years ago

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!???????????????????????????


bgpappa profile image

bgpappa 4 years ago from Sacramento, California Author

Articulate point.

Thanks for stopping by.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working