Blog Post – The Maligning of Christopher Columbus and the Effort to Rewrite History
According to the Office of Personnel Management the following are recognized federal holiday:
- New Year’s Day (January 1)
- Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Third Monday in January)
- Washington’s Birthday (Third Monday in February)
- Memorial Day (Last Monday in May)
- Independence Day (July 4)
- Labor Day (First Monday in September)
- Columbus Day (Second Monday in October)
- Veterans Day (November 11)
- Thanksgiving Day (Fourth Thursday in November)
- Christmas Day (December 25)
However, more than half of college students support the idea of changing the name Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. In fact, some cities and states (South Dakota, Alaska, Minnesota, New Mexico and Vermont) have already opted to change the name. It seems they may envision a land without wars, struggles or strive existed before Columbus landed in the New World. Everyone lived together cooperatively and never disagreed or fought – these name changers believe! Nothing could be further from the truth!
Many people blame Columbus for simply sailing west, ignoring the reason behind his decision and Spain’s willingness to fund the venture. The truth is: about two centuries before Columbus’ 1492 trip 17-year old Marco Polo traveled with his father, Niccolo Polo, and uncle, Matteo Polo to meet with Kublai Khan, the grandson of Ghengis Khan. He was the Emperor of China, Korea, North India, Persia, Russia and Hungary. Marco Polo’s father and uncle had met Kublai Khan on a previous journey and he had requested that the Polos bring back 100 teachers of the Holy Christian Faith and a flask of oil from Christ’s empty tomb in Jerusalem. Because of wars in Europe and the death of Pope Clement IV this never happened. When the Polos returned, Marco was employed by Kublai Khan as an envoy for over 20 years.
Upon Marco Polo’s returned to Italy he was captured during the Battle of Curzola in 1298. While imprisoned in Genoa, Marco Polo dictated his stories of Persian, China, Mongolia and the Far East and India to a fellow prisoner. This book became Medieval Europe’s best-seller, The Travels of Marco Polo. It was nicknamed “One Million Lies” because of the many things he claimed he saw such as India’s worship of cattle, naked holy men, exotic herbs and spices, China’s spaghetti noodles, a Chinese compass, gunpowder, ice cream, paper from tree pulp, eyeglasses, wheelbarrow, thread from worms (silk), burning black stones (coal), women’s feet bound since childhood, arrows shot from recurve bows.
Even as his book was, in some cases, dismissed as simply his vivid imagination he said he believed it was God’s will that Europeans should go back to the land of Kublai Khan. Eventually the China Silk Road was established and used regularly for trade between Western Europe to India and China.
In Genoa, 127 years after Marco
Polo’s death, Christopher Columbus was born in 1451.
When Columbus was two years old, in 1453, the Muslim Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople. Muslim Turkish crusaders proceeded to invade Eastern Europe and dominate the Mediterranean. These aggressive military acts effectively curtailed trade from Western Europe to India and China. As the sphere of Islamic states grew, some raided caravans crossing the China Silk Road, making trade extremely dangerous. Land trade routes were forced to close and Europeans began looking for a sea route for trade to China and India.
At the age of 41, Christopher
Columbus wrote to the King and Queen of Spain in 1492:
“Concerning the lands of India, and a Prince called Gran Khan …
How many times he sent to Rome to seek doctors in our Holy Faith to instruct him and that never had the Holy Father provided them, and thus so many people were lost through lapsing into idolatries …
And Your Highnesses, as Catholic Christians and Princes devoted to the Holy Christian Faith and the propagators thereof, and enemies of the sect of Mahomet and of all idolatries and heresies, resolved to send me, Christopher Columbus, to the said regions of India,
to see the said princes and peoples and lands and the dispositions of them and of all, and the manner in which may be undertaken their conversion to our Holy Faith …”
“And ordained that I should not go by land (the usual way) to the Orient, but by the route of the Occident, by which no one to this day knows for sure that anyone has gone.”
We know the rest of the story. Columbus got the funding and crew he needed for three small sailing vessels – the Nina , the Pinta and the Santa Maria – to head west to the Indies. Setting sail on August 3, 1492 Columbus and the men were full of hope they would soon reach the Indies. Having sailed 3,000 miles by October 9th, well beyond the average 300 miles for sea travel, the men threatened mutiny if Columbus did not turn back. They agreed to give Columbus three more days. From that point on the ships seemed to increase speed to an uncanny, almost unnatural, speed and at 2:00 a.m. on the third day the cry of “Land! Land!” rang out from the watchman on the Pinta. Upon landing around noon, Christopher Columbus christened the island San Salvador — “Holy Savior”– and prayed: “O Lord, Almighty and everlasting God, by Thy holy Word Thou hast created the heaven, and the earth, and the sea; blessed and glorified be Thy Name, and praised be Thy Majesty, which hath deigned to use us, Thy humble servants, that Thy holy Name may be proclaimed in this second part of the earth.”
Yes, Christopher (which means Christ-bearer) Columbus made mistakes and gold played a big part in that. He noticed that some of the Indians (because the Spaniards believed they were in the Indies) had gold ornaments in their noses. Through sign language Columbus was able to ascertain that the gold had come from lands to the southwest. Columbus was anxious to set out to find the great cities of India which he was convinced was nearby, but he also wanted to find the source of the gold. Satan had been unable to prevent the deliverance of the Gospel to this unknown land through mutiny, he now was using gold to taint the original goal of the voyage – to find a suitable trade route by sea.
On every island at which they stopped, Columbus had his men erect a large wooden cross “as a token of Jesus Christ our Lord, and in honor of the Christian faith.” They found the majority of inhabitants peaceful, innocent, and trusting and Columbus gave strict orders that they were not to be molested or maltreated in any way. However, it should be noted here that some tribes of the Caribbean practiced cannibalism and the “more advanced” civilizations of the mainland engaged in ritual murder and blood sacrifice. For example, the Incas performed child sacrifices during or after important events and the Mayans had daily human sacrifices to appease gods.
Their search brought them to Cuba and in early December 1492 they were blown to an island which Columbus named Espanola. At this location the Santa Maria drifted onto a reef and sank. Columbus and the men of the Santa Maria and Nina (the captain of the Pinta had abandoned them earlier on his own quest for gold), went ashore. Columbus viewed the sinking as the will of God and determined to establish a settlement there which he named La Navidad (the Nativity). Thirty-nine men gladly agreed to stay behind to build the fort as Columbus needed to report back his discoveries to the King and Queen of Spain. His goal was to return the following year and Columbus was confident that through diligent trading with the Indians the men would have obtained enough gold to fill a barrel, as well as, discover the mine which supplied the gold. Columbus wanted the gold, not for himself but to give to the King and Queen in order for them to have the finances to equip the greatest expedition of all — to free the Holy Land from the Muslims.
Upon Columbus’ return one year later he brought a fleet of seventeen vessels and 1200 men, of which 200 were “gentlemen volunteers” paying their own way and seeking gold and adventure. Columbus’ dream became a nightmare; when he returned to La Navidad he found all his men had been murdered some by each other, but most from tribes of Indians other than those they had befriended. Finally, Columbus was able to get the story from some Indians who were not too afraid to come forward to speak: Soon after Columbus left the year before the thirty-nine men began simply taking gold, as well as women, as they chose.
Columbus turned out to be a terrible administrator which led to greater tension between the sailors and the Indian tribes. The thirst for gold became Columbus’s main goal, as Satan must have gloated over these circumstances. The King and Queen of Spain removed Columbus as governor over Espanola, as they were concerned about the way their subjects (the Indians) were being treated. However, God’s plan for the Good News of the Gospel to be delivered to the New World was not blotted out as by the early 1500’s Franciscan friars began arriving.
Would changing the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day change history? Yes, Christopher Columbus made mistakes, but wouldn’t changing the name of the day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day overlook the fact many of the indigenous peoples engaged in cannibalism, slavery, human sacrifice and warmongering??