CHRISTOPHER Columbus reminds me of David Livingstone.
David Livingstone did not discover the Victoria Falls, he was the first Anglo Saxon to be shown the Mosi-oa-Tunya and he renamed it the Victoria Falls in honour of his British Queen.
The same goes for Christopher Columbus.
He did not discover America, America had long been discovered by those who inhabited it.
Christopher Columbus is often portrayed as the first European to sail to the Americas.
He is sometimes portrayed as the discoverer of the New World.
Yet there is evidence that the first Europeans to sail across the Atlantic were Viking explorers from Scandinavia.
In addition, the land was already populated by indigenous peoples, who had ‘discovered’ the Americas thousands of years before.
Columbus Day originated as a celebration of Italian-American heritage and was first held in San Francisco in 1869.
The first state-wide celebration was held in Colorado in 1907.
In 1937, Columbus Day became a holiday across the United States.
Since 1971, it has been celebrated on the second Monday in October.
The date on which Columbus arrived in the Americas is also celebrated as the Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) in Latin America and some Latino communities in the USA. However, it is a controversial holiday in some countries and has been re-named in others.
Columbus Day celebrations are controversial because the settlement of Europeans in the Americas led to the deaths of a very large proportion of the native people.
It has been argued that this was a direct result of Columbus’ actions.
It is clear that the arrival of the European settlers led to the demise of a large proportion of the history and culture of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
It has also been argued that Columbus should not be honoured for ‘discovering’ North America, as he only went as far as some islands in the Caribbean and never got as far as mainland America.
The indigenous population collapse was a direct result of Columbus’s so-called ‘discovery’.
Some, such as the American Indian Movement, have argued that the responsibility of contemporary governments and their citizens for allegedly ongoing acts of genocide against native Americans are masked by positive Columbus myths and celebrations.
They argue that a particular understanding of the legacy of Columbus has been used to legitimise their actions, and it is this misuse of history that must be exposed.
David Peat asserts that many cultural myths of North America exclude or diminish the culture and myths of native Americans.
These cultural myths include ideas expressed by Michael Berliner of the Ayn Rand Institute claiming that Western civilisation brought ‘reason, science, self-reliance, individualism, ambition, and productive achievement’ to a people who were based in ‘primitivism, mysticism, and collectivism’, and to a land that was ‘sparsely inhabited, unused, and underdeveloped’.
American anthropologist Jack Weatherford says that on Columbus Day, Americans celebrate the greatest waves of genocide of the Indians known in history.
American Indian Movement of Colorado leader and activist Ward Churchill takes this argument further, contending that the mythologising and celebration of the European settlement of the Americas in Columbus Day make it easier for people today to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions, or the actions of their governments regarding indigenous populations.
He wrote in his book Bringing the Law Back Home:
Very high on the list of those expressions of non-indigenous sensibility (that) contribute to the perpetuation of genocidal policies against Indians are the annual Columbus Day celebration, events in which it is baldly asserted that the process, events, and circumstances described above are, at best, either acceptable or unimportant.
More often, the sentiments expressed by the participants are, quite frankly, that the fate of Native America embodied in Columbus and the Columbian legacy is a matter to be openly and enthusiastically applauded as an unrivalled ‘boon to all mankind’.
Undeniably, the situation of American Indians will not — in fact cannot — change for the better so long as such attitudes are deemed socially acceptable by the mainstream populace.
Hence, such celebrations as Columbus Day must be stopped.
Observance of Columbus Day varies in different parts of the United States, ranging from large-scale parades and events to complete non-observance.
Most states celebrate Columbus Day as an official state holiday, though many mark it as a ‘Day of Observance’ or ‘Recognition’ and at least four do not recognise it at all. San Francisco claims the nation’s oldest continuously existing celebration with the Italian-American community’s annual Columbus Day Parade, which was established by Nicola Larco in 1868, while New York City boasts the largest celebration and parade.
Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, and South Dakota are US states that do not recognise Columbus Day at all, though Hawaii and South Dakota mark the day with an alternative holiday or observance.
Hawaii celebrates Discoverers’ Day, which commemorates the Polynesian discoverers of Hawaii on the same date, the second Monday of October, though the name change has not ended protest related to the observance of Columbus’ discovery.
South Dakota celebrates the day as an official state holiday known as ‘Native American Day’ rather than Columbus Day.
Oregon does not recognise Columbus Day, neither as a holiday nor a commemoration; schools and public offices remain open.
Iowa and Nevada do not celebrate Columbus Day as an official holiday; however, the governor is ‘authorised and requested’ by statute to proclaim the day each year.
The city of Berkeley, California, has replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day since 1992, a move which has been replicated by several other localities including Sebastopol, Santa Cruz and Dane County, Wisconsin.
Interestingly, Harvard remains the only Ivy League College, which celebrates Columbus Day.
Several students organisations at the prestigious college have, however, advocated the school to rename the holiday ‘Indigenous People’s Day’.
There are serious implications to this, as one of the top elite schools in the world, which churns out world leaders, politicians, business leaders, court judges, and many other influential individuals who shape not just America, but the world, the continued celebration of Columbus Day by Harvard serves as an indication that the American Establishment will never acknowledge its nasty history but continue to whitewash it, teaching its people that only others have to be held accountable and assume responsibility while it goes scot-free.
I identify with Native Americans because for me, Columbus Day would be like celebrating Rhodes and Founders weekend.
CHRISTOPHER Columbus reminds me of David Livingstone.