In the last couple of decades, certain incidents or moments have become litmus tests for larger historical understandings. The arrival of Columbus to the New World is one such event. Both historians and the public at large have debated the meaning of Columbus’ voyages and his legacy. In this journal, please explain what you understand to be the actual accomplishments or failures of Columbus, then discuss the legacy of the explorer specifically tied to Columbus Day.
Does a man who never stepped on what would become the United States deserve a federal holiday? What do you think of the argument for changing the name and focus of the holiday from Columbus to “Indigenous Peoples Day”? Does changing the holiday dishonor the heritage of Italian-Americans, a group that has also faced discrimination? Or does changing the name serve to recognize and affirm the overlooked history and contributions of Native Americans? S
Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer who, on behalf of Spain, led four voyages to the Caribbean and South America between 1492 and 1502. His voyages opened up the New World to Europe, led to the colonization of the Americas by European powers, and ultimately changed the course of world history. However, Columbus’ legacy is complex, and his actual accomplishments and failures are a matter of debate among historians.
On one hand, Columbus’ voyages led to the exchange of goods, ideas, and cultures between Europe and the Americas. He also introduced European domesticated animals, plants, and technologies to the New World, which had a profound impact on the indigenous societies. However, Columbus’ arrival also resulted in the colonization and exploitation of indigenous peoples and their lands, leading to the deaths of millions through disease, forced labor, and violence.
As for the legacy of Columbus Day, it has been celebrated as a federal holiday in the United States since 1937, commemorating Columbus’ arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492. However, the holiday has become controversial in recent years, with many arguing that it should be changed to Indigenous Peoples Day to recognize the suffering of Native Americans and their contributions to American society.
In my opinion, the celebration of Columbus Day as a federal holiday is questionable, given the harm he inflicted on indigenous peoples. Furthermore, Columbus never set foot in what is now the United States, making the holiday’s association with American history questionable. Changing the holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day would serve as a way to acknowledge the long and rich history of Native American cultures, as well as their ongoing struggles for justice and recognition.
I also understand that changing the holiday name may be seen as dishonoring the heritage of Italian-Americans, who have long celebrated Columbus as a symbol of their heritage. However, it is possible to recognize and celebrate Italian-American heritage without celebrating Columbus specifically. Moreover, recognizing the contributions of Indigenous Peoples does not diminish or negate the contributions of other groups, including Italian-Americans, who have faced their own struggles with discrimination and marginalization.
In conclusion, while Columbus’ voyages were significant in the history of global exploration, his legacy is complex and fraught with controversy. It is time to re-evaluate the celebration of Columbus Day and consider changing the name to Indigenous Peoples Day to acknowledge the contributions and struggles of Native Americans.