So today is Columbus Day and I'm trying to figure out why many American states honor his legacy with a holiday. According to the Library of Congress, President Benjamin Harrison urged Americans to remember Oct. 12th, the date of Columbus' landing. The Knights of Columbus followed by lobbying state legislatures to make it a legal holiday, and Colorado was the first to do so in 1907. Columbus Day was made a federal holiday in 1971. So, we continue to honor this day because it's been tradition?
Virtually no one believes Columbus was the first European on American soil. The Vikings landed on the shores of Newfoundland 500 years prior to his arrival. Furthermore, some historians believe the Chinese arrived in the New World around 1421, trumping Columbus by 71 years.
If that's not enough, his arrival on Hispaniola, killed the entire Taino population. Sure, he could not have predicted the effect European diseases would have upon these natives, so we can't hold him and those Europeans followed totally accountable, but many Taino did die because of forced labor, and that is something we can hold them accountable for.
Many historians and certainly Native Americans will also argue that the Conquistadors were a direct result of Columbus' arrival (which seems perfectly logical to me). So, Columbus wasn't just an explorer who challenged the flat-world assumptions of the day to find a new trade route, but was instead the first of a long line of dominoes that led to the Spanish colonization of Latin America, a legacy that is still crippling natives today.
So, again I ask, what about Christopher Columbus' legacy deserves a holiday? If we are just honoring tradition, shouldn't we stop and ask why? Some traditions are worth changing.