The dark reality of Christopher Columbus’s voyage

Columbus never really discovered the Americas as he only disrupted the natural lifestyle of the Indigenous Americans that were already there. Illustration by lenschanger on

With Columbus Day still being recognized as a national holiday, many who know the truth about Christopher Columbus question why we celebrate it. Initially, people observed Columbus Day on October 12th of each year. 

Following 1971, people celebrated Columbus Day every second Monday of October. As the infamous rhyme states, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. 

He began his journey with hopes of finding what he called the “Indies,” which is known as Japan, China and India. In October of that year, Columbus would end his voyage in what he thought was Asia, only to realize later that he had found a new continent. 

Columbus’s “discoveries” are honored and celebrated through the celebration of Columbus Day. However, what many do not understand, is the dark underbelly of these discoveries. 

Columbus did not discover the Americas as natives, known as Taínos, had already lived there when he arrived. Columbus and the Taínos would trade goods with one another, but Columbus searched for gold to bring back to his people in Spain. 

Desperate to find more gold, Columbus schemed and plotted ways to expand his riches. After making it back to Spain, Columbus was a known name and hero. 

The public viewed him as a courageous explorer that sailed through the unknown seas and made incredible discoveries. Columbus also brought back some of the things he acquired while in the Americas, such as spices, cotton, tobacco, gold and even indigenous Americans he kidnapped.

Spanish monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella sent Columbus back to search for more gold. They were sending him off with 17 ships and over a thousand men for his second trip. 

Columbus would also make his promised return for the 39 crew members he left in Hispaniola. He left his men to fend for themselves and build a colony. Instead, they were all killed by a local native chief.

Following this loss suffered by Columbus, he and his crew went on a rampage to find more gold on the island. This rampage upset the chief and the people of Hispaniola, resulting in fighting and bloodshed. 

Columbus would go above and beyond to assert his dominance over the natives and executed three of the chief’s captains in a public beheading.

After all the gold had run out, Columbus did what any colonizer would do and convert the native people to his way of thinking and eventually enslaved them for his monetary gain. Columbus is, in many respects, a murderer. 

In the end, Columbus never really discovered the Americas as he only disrupted the natural lifestyle of the Indigenous Americans that were already there. He took not only their land but their people, resources and way of life. 

Columbus and the rest of his colonizers also brought diseases that would contribute to the countless murders of indigenous people. What people are celebrating, whether they realize it or not, is a man and a holiday that embraces genocide, capitalism and overall oppression. 

Today, many people credit Columbus for creating some of the world’s most significant contributors to capitalism, such as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. 

Despite these multi-millionaires not being actual enslavers, they do benefit from the sweat and tears of their underpaid, overworked employees.

These people work in unfavorable working conditions to keep food on the table and the economy to continue to run.

With many knowing the true legacy of Columbus, historians and other individuals are pushing to get rid of Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This holiday would celebrate the rich history of the Indigenous Americans rather than Columbus’s false discoveries.

Luckily, some places across the nation have already adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of the original holiday for the native population. People have celebrated this holiday on October 11th each year since 1990. 

Despite the holiday being a day to uplift and recognize those oppressed by hundreds of years of colonialism, some argue that it is erasing history and Columbus’s legacy. In reality, Columbus Day whitewashes and overwrites the history of Native Americans. 

The fight to have Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrated nationwide is still an uphill battle. Residents of Dekalb County and organizations such as Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights plan to form a protest in hopes of the removal of a genocide cannon located in downtown Decatur Square.  

Even with the current recognition of Columbus, it does not stop indigenous people from celebrating, honoring and remembering the lives of their people.