By: Kayla Gilbert ’21
Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. He was an Italian explorer and colonizer who completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that opened the New World. Christopher Columbus widely studied in geography, astronomy, and history classes was an explorer who has been regaled often in our elementary school classes. Columbus had a plan to seek a western sea passage to the East Indies, hoping to profit from the lucrative spice trade. After years of petitioning Ferdinand and Isabella, they agreed to sponsor a journey to the west. Columbus left Castile, Spain in August 1492 with three ships, and after a stopover in the Canary Islands made landfall in the Americas on October 12 (later celebrated as Columbus Day). His landing place was the Bahamas, known by its native inhabitants as Guanahai.
However, Columbus’s legacy and conquest are currently up for much debate. In regard to having a holiday named after Columbus, we remind ourselves he was a colonizer; a brutal one at that. Public perceptions have drastically changed; as recent scholars have given attention to negative aspects of his life. Enslavement of the indigenous population in his quest for gold and the need for strong naval power. His brutal subjugation of the Taino people leading to their near extinction, as well as allegations of tyranny towards Spanish colonists.
The Taino people, were the indigenous people of the Caribbean. Of course, we cannot look at this from our current geographic perspective. At the time of the late fifteenth century European, the inhabitants of most of Cuba, Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti), Jamaica and The Bahamas. The Taíno were the first “New world,” peoples encountered by Columbus and he sent thousands of Tiano people to Spain to be sold, people he labeled, “Indians,” many died during the difficult sea journey.
Columbus became known during the “age of exploration,” and not only did he find the new world, he also brought with him disease that eradicated the Tiano people, who lacked immunity. They succumbed to smallpox before the many brutal killings, leading many to see Columbus best known for his biological warfare.
Since 1991, numerous cities and a growing number of states have adopted Indigenous Peoples Day. States such as, Vermont, Maine, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Washington D.C, South Carolina and Iowa have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day.
In Massachusetts, House Bill H3665 is before the legislature, which would rename October 12th as Indigenus People’s Day. For more Information on Indigenous People’s Day, visit www.indigenouspeoplesdayma.org. Read the act establishing Indigenous People’s Day here in the Commonwealth — Bill H. 3665 and contact your local representatives if you approve of such a bill.
Indigenous People’s Day is a day that celebrates the history that celebrates the Native Americans who inhabited the “New World,” long before Columbus discovered” it.