Today is Columbus Day in the United States. Columbus Day first became a federal holiday in 1937. This holiday celebrates the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas.
Columbus was an Italian explorer who belived the world was round instead of flat. He was looking for a shorter trade route to the Indies and was funded by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. He sailed three ships across the Atlantic Ocean and landed in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492. Thinking he had reached the Indies, he named the natives "Indians" and took possession for the Spanish crown.
Over the past decade, a growing number of activists have been protesting the celebration of Columbus Day in the Americas. The introduction of the Europeans into the Native American cultures led to destruction and death. The population of European peoples in the Americas grew steadily, while the number of the Native Americans plummeted. European diseases such as smallpox, influenza, bubonic plague and pneumonic plagues devastated the previously isolated Native Americans. Conflict and outright warfare with European newcomers and other American tribes reduced populations and disrupted traditional society. The extent and causes of the decline have long been a subject of academic debate, along with its possible characterization as a genocide. Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group.
I remember the cute rhyme about Columbus that we learned in elementary school;
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
With three ships he called by name,
The Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria.
Today, is a time to think about what really happened when the Europeans "discovered" America.