As the classic rhyme goes, “In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” and discovered America. But did he really?
The second Monday of every October is “celebrated” and dedicated to Christopher Columbus’ exploration and discoverance of America, but in reality, he wasn’t the first to discover anything.
In 1492, he did, indeed, sail across the Atlantic Ocean to make a voyage to the Bahamas and another to Cuba, which paved the way for Europeans to explore those areas later on, but millions of Native Americans were already living in the Americas before Columbus “discovered” the land.
At the time, he thought he had arrived in East Asia and claimed the land for Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, both who sponsored his journey in finding “a western ocean route to China, India and the fabled gold spice islands of Asia,” stated history.com.
Rather than interacting with these people in a friendly and welcoming way, Columbus was more so selfishly focused on becoming rich and taking over the land. He began calling the indigenous people “Indians,” converted many of them to Christianity and used extreme violence and slavery towards them.
On his first journey, which took three months, he landed on an island in the Caribbean and seized six native people, wanting to make them servants as he had written in his journal. “Throughout his years in the New World, Columbus enacted policies of forced labor in which natives were put to work for the sake of profits. Later, Columbus sent thousands of peaceful Taino ‘Indians’ from the island of Hispaniola to Spain to be sold. Many died en route,” stated history.com.
Those “Indians” that weren’t sent to Spain were left with Columbus to search for gold and complete laborious work in plantations.
Eventually, the natives began to revolt, and in order stop further rebellion, Columbus “ordered a brutal crackdown,” killing many of the native people. Their bodies were, then, displayed and paraded through the streets, as Columbus ordered them to be.
In addition to killing many of the native people, Columbus brought new diseases to the New World as well, which helped to devastate the population of those living there.
In a slightly more positive light, Columbus’ voyages did spark trade of plants, animals and other goods between the East and West, also called “Columbian exchange.”
Oppositely though, many of these exchanges resulted in biological warfare, meaning bacteria, viruses and fungi, for example, were used to kill humans as an act of war, as stated by emedicinehealth.com.
About 250,000 Taino “Indians” were present on the island when Columbus had arrived, and 60 years later, only a few hundred remained, according to history.com.
Eventually, people began to catch on to Columbus’ detrimental, selfish and disturbing ways. The Spanish court accused him of mismanagement, reported history,com, and in 1500, the king and queen of Spain sent someone to bring him and his crew back home.
Throughout the country, people protest at Columbus Day parades and many have even pushed to eliminate his history from classroom curriculum and change the holiday, history.com stated.
Each year, this federal holiday acts as an opportunity for many to become educated about the “Columbus controversy,” regardless of how you personally view the matter.
As many schools give the day off on Columbus Day, Keene State College does not, and all classes and college operations will remain in full effect.
Jessica Ricard can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org