White(washed) Lies


Leah Tan

CONTENT WARNING: Non-descriptive language about genocide of Native American people

“In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” or so they say. This simple line was only part of the ignorant and whitewashed narrative spread about the early Americas, and yet we still nationally celebrate the explorer every second Monday in October. As people become more aware of the brutal atrocities Columbus committed, it’s time we get rid of the national holiday and officially recognize Indigenous People’s day. 

Celebrated by Italian immigrants, Columbus Day became a federal holiday in 1937 under Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency to commemorate his “discovery of the Americas.” However, this is blatantly false. In fact, according to the Washington Post, Columbus never set foot in North America as we so claim, but landed in various Caribbean islands like the Bahamas as well as Central and South American coasts. Rather, it was explorer Leif Erikson who reached Canada 500 years prior to Columbus that is credited for the discovery of America. Considering Columbus didn’t even do what he is celebrated for, there is no reason for there to even be a federal holiday. But perhaps most importantly, we shouldn’t be celebrating a man who committed countless brutal crimes against the Indigenous people of the Caribbean. 

For Native people in the United States, Columbus Day is a celebration of genocide and colonization. Columbus and his crew treated the Indigenous people horrifically: they forced the Natives to collect gold in brutal conditions, sold many into slavery, committed killings publicly, and spread deadly diseases that decimated the entire Native population. By celebrating a man who committed such crimes, we minimize the centuries of struggle our Native populations have suffered. To this day, the Native American population is unjustly treated whether it be through theft of their land, rampant discrimination, or exclusion of their history in our curriculum. In this time of change where there is a growing awareness of the violent history of the United States, it’s imperative the government adheres to the people’s calls. But this support shouldn’t stop just at changing a holiday, rather changing the holiday should be the start of a series of actions to recognize and support the Indigenous people. This can start by granting more protections towards them as independent entities and properly teaching their history and the brutal, ugly truth of the United States’s beginning. The Native American people have suffered for too long and yet contributed so much to our country, it’s finally time we make a change.