News & Politics

Yes, Give Native Americans a Holiday; But Leave Columbus Day Alone

There is a growing movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day in order to honor Native Americans instead of some dead, white, European male.

Emphasize “white.” The fact is, you could easily honor Native Americans on some other day, but that would defeat the purpose of punishing white people for coming to America and destroying paradise for those already here.

Fox News:

Among the states engaged in the rebranding: Vermont, where Gov. Peter Shumlin said the “sacrifice and contributions of the First Peoples of this land” would be honored. He wrote that the day provided an opportunity to celebrate “indigenous heritage and resiliency.”

South Dakota has avoided the Columbus Day name for decades, reportedly declaring the second Monday in October as Native Americans Day in 1990.

Phoenix became the largest city to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day after a city council vote made it official last Thursday, KJZZ reported. Dozens of other cities also approved the name change in recent years, including Denver and Seattle.

But one big city bucked the trend. Cincinnati’s city council last Wednesday voted against a proclamation that would have recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. One lawmaker who voted against it told the newspaper he simply didn’t know enough about it.

Columbus Day traditionally recognizes Christopher Columbus’s 1492 arrival in the Americas.

While most federal workers get the day off, only about half of states recognize Columbus Day as a paid holiday for public workers, a 2015 Pew Research Center study found.

Shumlin’s proclamation in Vermont applies only to this year. A spokesman tells WPTZ-TV it could be issued yearly by the next governor.

There is no doubt that the arrival of western Europeans on the North and South American continents was an absolute disaster for the people who were already here. Up to 90% died of western diseases without ever seeing a white man. The extensive trade networks established over several thousand years guaranteed that within 80 years of the arrival of Columbus, measles, smallpox, influenza, and other diseases for which most westerners have at least some resistance would devastate a people who had never been exposed to them before.

But why pick on Columbus? One of the more unlovely figures in history, Columbus was a tyrant and a brutal slave master. He was an incompetent administrator and was such a bad captain his men mutinied and left him marooned on his fourth and last voyage to the Americas. To top it all off, he went to his grave insisting that the Indies and China were  just a short distance from his discoveries while they were actually 3,000 miles away.

But he was also a brilliant navigator and cartographer. He just underestimated the size of the earth by about 1/3.

Renaming Columbus Day is not about “recognizing” Native Americans. It’s about reminding white people of their sins. And the major sin committed by whites was showing up here in the first place.

The idea that western Europeans should have stayed put in Europe and never tried crossing the ocean is idiotic. Humans have been traversing the unknown for 120,000 years. If we hadn’t, we’d all still be sitting in Africa. If it hadn’t been Europeans, it would eventually have been the Chinese or the Arabs. Someone (who wasn’t an indigenous person), somewhere, someway was going to find America.

The crossing of the Atlantic by Columbus was a fortuitous mix of the arrival of new ship-building technology and the unification of Spain, which spurred a competition with Portugal for the riches of the east. With the Ottoman Turks closing off easy access to the Middle East and the land route to China, the race was on to find a sea passage. To the winner belonged fabulous riches.

Enter the little caravel, a remarkable advancement in ship building. It was small, maneuverable, but hardy and well built. But what was really revolutionary about it were its triangular lateen sails that made it quite speedy as well as giving it the capability of  sailing close to the wind (Columbus’s ship the Santa Maria was a nau, a close relative of the caravel).

The very first moment that Europeans were capable of crossing the Atlantic, they accomplished it. Think Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic, or the Mercury capsule sitting atop a Redstone rocket. The first moment in history where those journeys were possible, they were made.

There’s no reason to appropriate Columbus Day to honor Native Americans. The only reason to do so is to highlight white abuses of indigenous peoples, which doesn’t honor anyone.

There are 354 days in the year to pick an appropriate holiday for Native Americans. Leave Columbus Day alone.