Every year, people celebrate Columbus Day Oct. 14 in honor of Christopher Columbus; however, traction has been building for renaming the holiday Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This change is necessary to remove the spotlight from a man who has committed countless atrocities while simultaneously recognizing the suffering indigenous people faced because of him.
There are countless examples showcasing just why Colubmus was an awful person — and it’s not just because he wasn’t the first person to discover North America. While he spent time in the Cibao, a region of the Dominican Republic, Columbus created a plan to make a profit through the natives he encountered there.
The Cibao was riddled with gold deposits and cotton, both commodities Columbus desired to collect and take with him. Columbus wasn’t able to locate these resources, so he created a tribute system for the natives in the area.
Every native 14 years or older was forced to bring Columbus and his men a set amount of gold dust every three months, according to the book “The Life of the Admiral Christopher Columbus: by his son Ferdinand.” Anyone under the age of 14 had to provide 25 pounds of cotton instead.
Any native who failed to pay the tribute was punished by having one of their hands cut off. Exceptions weren’t made, and Columbus felt no guilt.
Soon after the tribute system was implemented, it was replaced by a system called the encomienda system. Under this new system, Columbus rewarded colonists with control over the villages of natives in the region.
This system was slavery in every aspect except the name — and there’s a holiday celebrating the man who created it. The rabbit hole doesn’t end there though.
According to a letter by Columbus quoted in the book “Documents of West Indian History,” while in Haiti, Columbus would give his lieutenants native women to rape. Once given away, these women were the men’s as long as they wanted them.
No person who has committed any of these acts should have a holiday to celebrate them. Instead Columbus Day should be fully replaced with Indigernous Peoples’ Day.
Renaming the day Inigenous Peoples’ Day would result in two main benefits. First, it would help combat the underserved fame Columbus has been given. Second, it would adjust the spotlight to shine on the horrors indigenous people have faced.
Arguments do exist against making this change, however, with one of the primary ones based around the change giving too much focus on negativity.
The Washington Post published an opinion column Oct. 14 explaining why this transition shouldn't take place. The column argues that renaming the holiday would result in too much focus on the negative past actions western civilization has carried out, burying the positive actions and progressive growth that has taken place.
This argument is flawed. The negative actions of our past need to be isolated in order to learn from them and make changes, otherwise we risk feeling as if we’ve already done enough, slowing down future progress.
Social progress is something we should constantly strive for, and renaming Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ day is an easy way to take another step forward.