Most of us have heard the saying, "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue", but very few actually know what sort of horror the man brought to the Natives or the reason for Columbus Day in the first place. If anything, Columbus Day shouldn’t be a day of celebration. It should be a day of shame.
Columbus Day was thought up by the Knights of Columbus, which was a Catholic fraternal service organization. They really needed a hero and Columbus was their guy. They successfully lobbied government and Columbus Day was born.
The problem is that Columbus probably wasn’t the first European to discover America and he wasn’t a hero at all, but a brutal monster who tried to commit genocide to spread his faith.
First off, we know that a European by the name of Leif Ericson probably set up a village in what is now known as Newfoundland, Canada.
But even so, America was already inhabited. How can you ‘discover’ a land inhabited by millions of Natives? He didn’t so much ‘discover’ it as take it and try to kill the people who were already there.
The embarrassing truth (laid out in Columbus’ own diary no less) was that when he landed in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492, he found that the island was already inhabited by the Lucayans, Taínos and Arawaks.
From Columbus’ diary:
"As I saw that they were very friendly to us, and perceived that they could be much more easily converted to our holy faith by gentle means than by force, I presented them with some red caps, and strings of beads to wear upon the neck, and many other trifles of small value, wherewith they were much delighted, and became wonderfully attached to us. Afterwards they came swimming to the boats, bringing parrots, balls of cotton thread, javelins, and many other things which they exchanged for articles we gave them, such as glass beads, and hawk's bells; which trade was carried on with the utmost good will. But they seemed on the whole to me, to be a very poor people. They all go completely naked, even the women, though I saw but one girl. All whom I saw were young, not above thirty years of age, well made, with fine shapes and faces; their hair short, and coarse like that of a horse's tail, combed toward the forehead, except a small portion which they suffer to hang down behind, and never cut. Some paint themselves with black, which makes them appear like those of the Canaries, neither black nor white; others with white, others with red, and others with such colors as they can find. Some paint the face, and some the whole body; others only the eyes, and others the nose. Weapons they have none, nor are acquainted with them, for I showed them swords which they grasped by the blades, and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their javelins being without it, and nothing more than sticks, though some have fish-bones or other things at the ends. They are all of a good size and stature, and handsomely formed. I saw some with scars of wounds upon their bodies, and demanded by signs the of them; they answered me in the same way, that there came people from the other islands in the neighborhood who endeavored to make prisoners of them, and they defended themselves. I thought then, and still believe, that these were from the continent. It appears to me, that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion. They very quickly learn such words as are spoken to them. If it please our Lord, I intend at my return to carry home six of them to your Highnesses, that they may learn our language. I saw no beasts in the island, nor any sort of animals except parrots." These are the words of the Admiral.
So in other words, the Natives were friendly and had no weapons. The first thoughts to hit Columbus were to enslave them, take their gold and convert them to Christianity.
This is the person people celebrate?
Columbus ended up enslaving the Natives and forcing them to work in his gold mines. He sold the native girls into sexual slavery:
"A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand."
He forced these peaceful natives work in his gold mines until they died of exhaustion. If an "Indian" worker did not deliver his full quota of gold dust by Columbus' deadline, soldiers would cut off the man's hands and tie them around his neck to send a message. Slavery was so intolerable for these sweet, gentle island people that at one point, 100 of them committed mass suicide. Catholic law forbade the enslavement of Christians, but Columbus solved this problem. He simply refused to baptize the native people of Hispaniola.
On his second trip to the New World, Columbus brought cannons and attack dogs. If a native resisted slavery, he would cut off a nose or an ear. If slaves tried to escape, Columbus had them burned alive. Other times, he sent attack dogs to hunt them down, and the dogs would tear off the arms and legs of the screaming natives while they were still alive. If the Spaniards ran short of meat to feed the dogs, Arawak babies were killed for dog food.
Columbus' acts of cruelty were so unspeakable and so legendary - even in his own day - that Governor Francisco De Bobadilla arrested Columbus and his two brothers, slapped them into chains, and shipped them off to Spain to answer for their crimes against the Arawaks. But the King and Queen of Spain, their treasury filling up with gold, pardoned Columbus and let him go free.
There were estimated to be approximately 3 million natives on the island of Hispaniola before the butcher Columbus arrived. In just 50 years, he managed to wipe them all out. Not one single native could be found on the island.
Once the natives were killed off, he began to trade in other slaves, primarily black slaves.
Columbus wasn’t a nice man. He is in no way a hero. Celebrating Columbus Day is a slap in the face to every native in North America. It’s also a slap in the face to Africans, who were later enslaved by Columbus.
But Americans don’t really learn these hard truths in history class. Maybe if they did, they wouldn’t be so quick to celebrate his dark accomplishments that were bought and paid for in native blood.