Who do you think of when asked who discovered America? Most people would say Christopher Columbus. Believe it or not there were many that came here before the Spanish including my family. We are part of the Tiano people who have lived here for many millennia.
We believe that Columbus Day should be renamed Indigenous Peoples Day to honor the Native Americans who discovered America first. Still, giving workers a day off doesn’t make up for all the suffering, death, and discrimination we experienced.
After Columbus arrived in Hispanola in 1492, he forced the Tiano to pay tribute in gold. Anyone who couldn't find enough had their hands cut off. During the first year of the tribute system 50,000 Natives died of starvation, suicide, disease, amputation, and war. Additionally, Columbus seized 500 Tainos against their will and sent them to Spain to be sold as slaves. The Spaniards even hunted the natives for sport and murdered them for dog food. These actions were not just cruel, they were inhumane. Some of the Tiano commited suicide because of the harsh labor and suffering they had to endure.
The Spanish disrupted the native's ecosystem and culture, forcing them to work in mines rather than tend their gardens which led to malnutrition and starvation. Columbus and his men were brutal and heartless, killing all who tried to escape to the hills. The Tiano had no choice but to obey the oppresive colonizers and convert to Christianity. Furthermore, the Europeans brought diseases like the measles, smallpox, and influenza which caused tremendous devastation, killing approximately 90% of the Native American population. The indigenous people had no natural immunity because they had never been exposed to those sicknesses before.
While it's true that Christopher Columbus paved the way for the Columbian Exchange (the interchange, or transfer of plants, animals, ideas, and technology between the New World and the Old World), was it really worth the brutal deaths of millions of Native Americans and the struggles they faced? Even by old standards, Columbus was considered cruel. In fact, in 1500 he was arrested for crimes against the natives and the Spanish and sent back to Spain. By celebrating Columbus Day and choosing to keep that tradition alive, we say a lot about our moral values. Does it really make sense to honor someone for committing genocide?
The Columbian Exchange
In conclusion, we believe that Columbus Day should be renamed Indigenous Peoples Day to celebrate the Native Americans who were the first to discover America. Christopher Columbus caused untold suffering for the natives and they deserve to be remembered for who they were and what they endured.