Columbus Day History

Oct 3rd, 2016

Columbus Day was made a national holiday in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is a day to commemorate the day in 1492 when Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World in 1492. It took him two months at sea to get lost and end up as the alleged first European to explore the Americas.


Columbus Day


Backed by Spanish monarchs, Columbus had set out to chart sea routes to China, India and Asia. When he arrived in Cuba, he thought he was in China, and when he arrived at Hispaniola in the Caribbean Islands, he thought he was in Japan. Columbus took the time to establish a colony consisting of 39 of his crew in the America’s. At that time, he was not aware that he had found a continent that the Europeans did not know about. He thought he was in Asia. He made the trip several more times, each time taking gold, spices and “Indian” captives back to Spain.


The Columbus Day holiday originated in 1792 when the New York Columbian Order celebrated Columbus’ landing in the Americas 300 years earlier. Since that time, annual religious ceremonies were held in his honor by Italian and Catholic communities. Columbus was Italian and was a member of the catholic faith.


Columbus Day has been a very controversial holiday. Native Americans have protested because colonization by immigrants brought disease, including influenza and smallpox, that caused millions of deaths, and that resulted in the natives being enslaved and shipped to a new country. It is also alleged by legend that he imposed torture and other forms of barbaric punishment of the people that already lived there, the Native Americans.


To date, the states of Alaska, Oregon and South Dakota refuse to recognize Columbus Day. Several states recognize the holiday, but do not give government workers a paid holiday. In this day and age, it is surprising that it is still a national holiday. According to Jack Weatherford, an anthropologist, it is basically a celebration of the largest case of genocide and enslavement in American history. Some cities in California have substituted Columbus Day for Indigenous People’s Day, and some Oklahoma tribal governments substitute Native American Day.


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