Goodbye, Columbus Day

Oct 8, 2018

Even though it remains a national holiday, many cities no longer celebrate Columbus Day. They celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day instead. What’s behind the switch? Contrary to what you might think, it’s not about paying homage to America’s original inhabitants. Steven Crowder, host of Louder with Crowder, explains.

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Columbus was the greatest navigator of his age, and despite his flaws, deserves recognition for his achievements.

  • Born in 1451 in Genoa, Italy, Christopher Columbus was an admiral and master navigator.View Source
  • Columbus set out to find a sea route to Asia, as the land route from Europe was nearly impossible to cross due to the distance and danger of hostile nations.View Source
  • Columbus’s journeys were sponsored by Ferdinand and Isabella, the rulers of Spain.View Source
  • Columbus attempted to find a sea passage to Asia with only three small ships, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.View Source
  • Reporting on his first encounter with the natives of the new world, Columbus wrote, “I gave them many beautiful and pleasing things, which I had brought with me, for no return whatever, in order to win their affection, and that they might become Christians and inclined to love our King and Queen and Princes and all the people of Spain….”View Source

The new world Columbus encountered was not an idyllic one where the native peoples lived “in perfect harmony with nature.” 

  • Contrary to popular belief, the new world Christopher Columbus encountered was not any idyllic one where the native population lived in perfect harmony with nature. Rather, it was highly populated and suffered problems of deforestation and erosion.View Source
  • Native Americans relied heavily on hunting and fishing.View Source
  • Early Native Americans likely caused the extinction of mastodons and mammoths.View Source
  • Native Americans also changed the landscape with their farming practices.View Source
  • According to archaeobiologist Timothy Messner, “In order to truly understand contemporary ecological questions about the impact humans have had on the environment we need to look at the sophisticated land-use practices of the ancient inhabitants and not just to the arrival of European settlers.”View Source

Columbus met both friendly, peaceful tribes and unfriendly, violent cannibals when he arrived in America. 

  • When Columbus arrived, the islands were inhabited by the Arawaks, who were passive and friendly, and the Caribs, who were vicious cannibals.View Source
  • Columbus made an alliance with the Arawak chief after his first voyage to keep a settlement safe until his return.View Source
  • Not all Native American tribes embraced peace with their neighbors. Many had warred over hunting grounds and farmland for millennia.View Source

The great wealth of the Mayan and Inca empires was gained in part by conquering and enslaving other native tribes.

  • By the time Hernando Cortes arrived in 1521, the Aztecs had created a violent empire in Mesoamerica, and many tribes were resentful of their rule, which was established through conquering and enslaving weaker groups.View Source
  • The Aztecs sacrificed thousands of people yearly to their god Huitzilopochtli.View Source
  • Cortes was not able to conquer with only 500 Conquistadors; it took aid from allied natives who were tired of being enslaved by the Aztecs.View Source
  • Although the Spanish had superior weapons, local knowledge about the Aztecs provided by native allies was instrumental to their success.View Source

Contrary to the popular narrative, Columbus and other European settlers did not commit mass genocide against Native Americans.

  • Native Americans were mostly wiped out through infectious diseases that the settlers inadvertently brought with them.View Source
  • The biggest contributing factor to the spread of diseases were animal carriers, such as horses, cows, and pigs.View Source
  • The battle of Wounded Knee is often cited as a massacre, when it was in fact a one-sided battle. While 150-350 natives were killed or wounded, there were also 31 American soldiers killed and 33 wounded.View Source
  • Sometimes, violent tribes such as the Apaches massacred settlers.View Source
  • The Comanches were responsible for some of the worst massacres against settlers.View Source

Infectious diseases—not mass genocide—is what wiped out a vast majority of the native population in America.

  • Of the estimated 250,000 natives in Hispaniola, Columbus's first stop in the Americas in 1492, new infectious diseases tragically wiped out nearly 95% of their population by 1517.View Source
  • The biggest contributing factor to the spread of diseases were animal carriers, such as horses, cows, and pigs.View Source
  • Related reading: “Don’t Blame Columbus for All the Indians’ Ills” – John Noble Wilford, New York TimesView Source

The campaign against Columbus isn’t about historical fact—it’s about discrediting Western Civilization and anybody who dares defend it.

  • Some activists on the left have tried to replace Columbus Day with “Indigenous People’s Day,” arguing that Columbus Day celebrates white supremacy.View Source
  • Those who seek to cast Columbus as a villain both overstate his flaws and sanitize the often violent history of the natives he encountered.View Source
  • Some say that Columbus didn’t “discover” America, because indigenous people were here before him; however, he did discover America for Europeans, opening up trade routes and cultural exchange.View Source

Thanksgiving. Independence Day. Memorial Day.

Holidays are a great time to riddle Americans with needless, oppressive guilt.

But the one that stands head and shoulders above the rest is Columbus Day—the day where progressives indoctrinate your children into believing Columbus to be Satan incarnate, the USA to be his evil spawn, and the Native Americans to be pacifists. And so now we have “Indigenous Peoples Day” or, as it would have been named thirty years ago, “Aboriginals Day,” or, as it would have been named ten or fifteen years ago, “Native Americans Day,” or, as it could be named tomorrow in Canada, “First Nation Peoples Day.”

Feeling the urge to self-inflict grievous bodily harm yet? That’s only natural, because the whole charade has become an exercise in hating Western civilization, which is really just an exercise in hating yourself.

First, as far as Columbus goes, the guy deserves some credit, right? Flawed, to be sure, but he was the greatest navigator of his age—the first person to cross the Atlantic from the continent of Europe. And he did so without any maps and only three small ships. If you can name them, by the way, comment below, as I’m sure your professor can’t.

But your professor probably has taught you the tale of Columbus as a villain, usually as a starting off point to indict the United States as a whole, often relying on a few key myths and some pivotal lies by omission.

So, to start with, I’ll bet that you probably believe Columbus and other European settlers to simply have committed mass genocide against Native Americans…sorry; Indigenous.

But here’s the truth: While there were many examples of brutal warfare between Europeans and Native Americans, neither side actually committed genocide; in fact, there was never an outright policy of Indian extermination.

The Native Americans were mostly wiped out through infectious diseases that the settlers had inadvertently brought with them. Of the estimated 250,000 natives in Hispaniola, Columbus's first stop in the Americas in 1492, new infectious diseases wiped out a staggering 95% of their population by 1517.

As far as the genocide by violence, you can look at any historical account of even the most one-sided battles and find that they were still just that—battles. Take Wounded Knee (although hundreds of years later, I only bring it up because I know that if I don’t, you will). It’s become ubiquitous with the idea of Native American genocide. After all, there were 150-350 Aboriginals killed or wounded. That’s terrible, but there were also 25 American soldiers killed and 39 wounded. That’s not genocide; that’s a one-sided beatdown with Old Glory wielding the hammer.

And sometimes the “massacres” went the other direction. See the Apaches for reference, or the Comanches, or a dozen or so other tribes. So, the natives often gave as good as they got—not exactly the way genocide usually tends to work.

Here’s another thing I bet you’ve been made to believe: that many Native Americans…sorry; American Indians…sorry; Idon’tknowwhat-takeyourpick lived in harmony with the environment until Columbus arrived, and European settlers destroyed the land with their evil technology.

Truth? Not only did the Natives brutally take out PEOPLE, but they took out entire forests and hunted species to extinction.

Squatting Bear and his First Nations buddies weren’t hopping into kayaks to block whaling ships, probably because they were too busy killing seals to waterproof their kayaks.

You also probably believe that the Native American…sorry; Two-Spirited-First Nations-something-or-other culture was a beautiful, pantheistic one of peace.

The truth is... not so much. When Columbus arrived, the islands were inhabited by two main tribes: the Arawaks, who were passive and friendly, and the Caribs, who were vicious cannibals. The Arawaks actually lived in fear of the Caribs for—you guessed it—the reasons being that they hunted them down to enslave them and eat them. Yes—eat them. Ironically, we get the name “Caribbean Islands” from those famous people-eaters.

The only way settlers were able to conquer this land was through the help of Native Americans who teamed up with them to settle the score with other tribes who were even bigger jerks than they were!

That’s not even to mention the populations in Central and South America, famous for ritual human sacrifice. You think Cortes was able to command and conquer with only 500 or so Conquistadors? Of course not! It took 50,000 screaming, ANGRY allied natives who’d had it up to here with being tortured, enslaved and forced to carry gold for the other native Aztecs. At some point, they decided to roll the dice and go with the guys sporting funny beards and metal hats.

None of this is to say that the early settlers were perfect, or that they didn’t carry out their fair share of pretty scummy stuff. But to use America’s mistakes as the brush with which to paint the entirety of its history while completely ignoring the indigenous lifestyle of barbarism and borderline evil is inaccurate at best, dishonest at worst. There were plenty of bloody, horrendous battles between the Europeans and the Indians.  When a Neolithic tribe encounters a more technologically advanced people, the guys with the boom-boom sticks usually win.

Columbus is not the issue here, and never was. This whole “Indigenous Peoples Day” charade is about teaching your children to despise Western civilization and anybody who dare defend it.

But then again, that could just be my Western civ privilege talking.

Happy Columbus Day.

I’m Steven Crowder for Prager University.

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