As children, we were all taught about Christopher Columbus and his historic voyages which led him to "discover" what we now consider "the Americas". Columbus has been largely commemorated in American culture as many cities in the U.S. have been named in his honor (even including the nation's capital - the District of Columbia) and a federally observed holiday has been established to celebrate his arrival.
However, this "Santa Clausification" of Christopher Columbus' legacy - akin to many other flawed historical figures such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson - is rooted in untruths and the rewriting of history. Columbus represents the atrocities of exploration and colonialism as evident by his subsequent slaughters of the indigenous populations that inhabited these areas; his "noteworthy" explorations set the foundation for the Atlantic slave trade which still has effects on the conditions of African-Americans today.
Interestingly enough, Columbus never stepped foot in North America. His voyages were to Central and South America as well as the Caribbean. In fact, there have been reports of other European explorers traveling to North America more than 500 years prior to Columbus' birth and even they are not the "discoverers" of the land considering that indigenous people were still here.
So, the question remains: Why do we celebrate Columbus Day and should the holiday still exist?
As criticism of Columbus Day grows each year, so does the initiative for its counter-celebration, Indigenous People's Day. Though not yet nationally observed, the holiday recognizes the suffering of Native American people caused by Columbus' voyages while also celebrating native culture. Cities such as Phoenix and Denver among countless others are currently celebrating their first official Indigenous People's Day this Monday. The hashtag #IndigenousPeoplesDay has even been a trending topic on Twitter as users denounce the significance of Columbus Day and push for more national attention in the counter holiday.
Despite this, many still continue to overlook the horrors committed by Columbus and blindly celebrate the holiday in his name.