Columbus Shlumbus

Story by Hanna Bae

Monday, Oct. 9 marked 46 years since the resolution to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It also marked over 200 years celebrating Christopher Columbus Day and 131 since the proclamation officially commemorating the historic voyage taken by the Spanish explorer.

I was in the car with my dad that day coming home from a cello lesson, when it hit me that I had gone to school. That shouldn’t have happened. Columbus day had meant a day off from school. Well, at least ten years ago. 

It’s clear there’s been a significant shift in the attitude and mindset regarding the celebration of Chistopher Columbus since the establishment of the holiday and even the global recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day as an alternative, and that’s become especially true in the classroom. 

One of my earliest memories is sitting in my kindergarten classroom coloring in a picture of Santa María (maybe it was the Pinta, who knows). I accidentally colored the red on the flag outside of the lines, and attempted to use a white crayon to cover it up, and ended up turning my entire flag pink. Pink flag in hand and Columbus rhyme in heart with my day off from school, I started to idolize the “founder of America.”

Each year we would emulate the same activities. In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He came and he conquered. It was because of this incredible man that I was able to call this grand country, the United States of America, my home. Disregarding the fact that I found it completely silly that he thought the Native Americans he encountered (that were supposedly in what we now know as the continental US) were Indians, Columbus was a hero.

What Christopher Columbus and his Spanish party actually did when they made four trips across the Atlantic Ocean and landed in the Bahamas is beyond grotesque. Christopher Columbus didn’t “discover” the Americas. There’s nothing to “discover” about an entire continent of people, culture, and civilization that has been around for thousands of years prior. Columbus was not the first European to make landfall in the Americas, but he would not be the last. 

As I’ve grown and the general social consensus regarding Columbus has drastically shifted, I’ve taken time to reflect on influences of environment and education and just how much my surroundings have impacted me and my past. It’s shameful. I’ve said things I shouldn’t have, I’ve worn things I shouldn’t have, and I’ve done things I shouldn’t have. But so did the rest of my kindergarten class. 

But now I know. I learned. There’s a sense of achievement I feel, knowing that I’ve left these kinds of things behind and I look forward to making a difference for myself. It’s the path of growth, learning to not repeat history, and taking action beyond simple recognition that’s truly valuable. I think I’ll be continuously reminded of my own personal growth each Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and never Christopher Columbus Day. 

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