Why Honor a Colonizer?

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CNY Conservancy

Joshua Bobbitt, Writer

Every October, many countries in the Americas observe Columbus Day, a holiday dedicated to honoring the Portuguese explorer, Christopher Columbus, who unintentionally sailed to the Caribbeans. The Western world recognizes Columbus as the founder of the Americas, the first man to find and open up the New World to the rest of Europe. However, saying that he found the Americas is not only false but completely ignores the violence and disease Columbus and his crew brought to the natives of the islands he came to. “The brutality and utter viscousness demonstrated by Columbus and his men towards groups of people that had been living in the Americas for centuries is not worthy of being honored nor celebrated,” explained Joey Cumpian, ‘21. The only thing Columbus truly found was a long history of enslavement, genocide, and rape that has plagued the entire Western Hemisphere for centuries.

By acknowledging Columbus’s legacy of slavery and murder, we as a country can now view our history from a less eurocentric perspective, giving a more accurate description of historical figures and recognizing the indigenous peoples that were affected by the colonization of the Americas. Rather than minimizing the pain explorers and migrants inflicted on the native people, we should openly discuss it. To encourage that discussion and to honor indigenous people, many people believe that Columbus Day should be renamed as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Allison Cavallo, ‘20, noted, “Columbus doesn’t really matter anymore, but indigenous people do matter. So, its a welcome change to recognize them for at least one day out of the year.” Changing the name of the holiday fully addresses their influence on the construction of the Americas and forces us to recognize the cruelty of European colonizers during that period. 

 Esme McCarthy, ‘20, said, “Changing the name of the holiday is a great idea that will hopefully encourage the way we teach history.” That change will hopefully open people’s eyes to the history of violence in this country and educate them on figures seen as heroes like Columbus and so many other explorers.