Our View: Celebrate Native Americans, not Columbus
October 14, 2021
Despite a day being named for him, there is little about Christopher Columbus that should be celebrated. The Columbus of reality is a far cry from the noble explorer of myth. While we can’t argue his exploits are not historically significant, they also do not warrant a day of remembrance in his name. The Wyoming Legislature should vote to recognize Indigenous’ Peoples Day over Columbus Day.
The man commonly believed to have discovered the New World (he didn’t), Columbus was the first to introduce the brutality of European conquest to the Americas. The indigenous peoples of the West Indies represented a people to be exploited as slaves, not as people that could be befriended.
“With 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want,” he wrote in his journal.
Columbus’s second expedition to the Caribbean was much better equipped than the first, returning with 17 ships and 1,200 men. He conducted slave raids throughout the islands, rounding up native men, women and children to be sold into slavery in Spain. His acts opened the door for European colonization, leading to the devastation of native cultures throughout the continents. According to the Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian, Native America lost 95% of its population in the 130 years following first contact with Europe. The loss of life, loss of culture and the loss of lands generations had called home were the Native Americans’ future. Centuries later in the United States, the idea of Manifest Destiny saw the young nation expand to its western coastline, all the while Native Americans were killed and pushed off their lands and onto reservations.
In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue, but his legacy floats upon a sea of blood. Wyoming should be a state celebrating the people who were in the Americas long before any European explorer set foot on American soil. Wyoming should celebrate the Arapahoe, the Shoshone, and other Native American tribes. Wyoming should celebrate Indigenous’ Peoples Day.