Columbus Day celebrations need to finally sail away

Native Americans protest the perseverance of Columbus Day celebrations nationwide.
Native Americans protest the perseverance of Columbus Day celebrations nationwide.

Hallie Lauer | News Editor

There are a few things in this world that make me irrationally angry. Red Velvet Cake and paying for parking are just a few of these. However, I feel like my anger toward Columbus Day is rather justified.

This is a long-held anger. I remember coming home from school very early on, after learning about Native Americans and giving a very-fired up speech to my mother about how the education system lied to be me by saying Christopher Columbus discovered America. (I’m not joking, you can ask her).

When you boil it down to pure facts, Columbus really didn’t do much except sail across the Atlantic Ocean. A difficult journey yes, but he wasn’t the great explorer that history books make him out to be. And if he really was that, why is America not named after him, but rather Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci?

Columbus Day originates from 1892, when the U.S. decided to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his landing. President Benjamin Harrison (most well known for being President William Henry Harrison’s grandson) signed a proclamation saying, “on that day let the people, so far as possible, cease from toil and devote themselves to such exercises as may be best express honor to the discoverer and their appreciation of the great achievements of the four completed centuries of American life.”

It wasn’t until 1937 that President Franklin Roosevelt declared the day a national holiday. This was rumored to be the result of heavy lobbying from the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization.

Despite what our previous leaders have thought, Columbus was exploitative. He came to a new land, spread diseases and exploited the people and resources he found here. Raw materials were harvested in North America and shipped back to Europe to be created into goods that the Europeans would then prosper from, while the Native Americans were used for the harvesting.

A lot of the narrative surrounding Columbus is that he opened up the West and linked the two hemispheres together. In actuality, he created a market in which the slave trade would boom. The Columbian Exchange, would be the precursor to the Triangle Trade. Through the Columbian Exchange people and diseases were imported into the Americas.

There really is no reason to continue to support this man. Not when we could make something more important a federal holiday -like a Voting Day. That would give people the ability to go out and vote and to support something actually important in this country.

Or we could follow the lead of South Dakota and celebrate Native American Day. South Dakota also led the charge in 1989, deeming the second Monday in October, traditionally Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples Day. However, if you check your planners, I bet they all still say Columbus Day.

When I checked my phone calendar, interestingly enough the second Monday of October wasn’t listed as any holiday.

There are a lot of things we could do better as a nation. However, this is an incredibly easy fix. It is often not easy to reconcile with the ghosts of our nation’s past, but this is one that has the ability to be put to bed and give recognition to a group of people that have been largely mistreated by the U.S.