Side Score: 3
Side Score: 5
It is fitting that Christopher Columbus be given recognition with a memorial day as it can be used by teachers to explain his achievement in discovering the New World for Spain and through the Spanish to other Europeans. He was not only a man of his time but a man who initiated a new time which we call the Age of Exploration. We must not forget that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue with the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. But all Americans know this thanks to their teachers and Columbus Day.
Side: In Favor
Columbus was a monster who murdered, maimed, raped, and enslaved the natives he encountered
This was normal behaviour in the time in which he lived. You should be very careful when judging members of historical (or even modern) cultures from the perspective of your own. If you read some Abraham Lincoln speeches, you will discover that, by today's standards, he was a rampant and inexcusable racist. By the standards he was living in however, he would almost certainly have been considered a progressive.
Side: In Favor
"Columbus was a monster who murdered, maimed, raped, and enslaved the natives he encountered.
There should be no Columbus day, instead there should be an Indigenous American day.
Read the journals of Martín Alonso Pinzón, Captain of the Pinta."
@Rusticus, Thank You! This is a VERY important issue that is often/mostly just obscured, trivialized, and ignored. I agree with everything you just said and would just like to add four notes and then expand on what did in fact happen with the Columbian Exchange (as you began to correctly outline):
1. There is an Indigenous People's Day that is "celebrated" in counter to Columbus Day.
2. There is a great short book/journal by Bartolome de Las Casas titled, "A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies" that details/exposes the oppression and extermination of the indigenous people by Europeans in the Americas (here is a link to the book: http://www.columbia.edu/~daviss/work/files/presentations/casshort/))
3. There is a great book by David E. Stannard (a prominent American Historian) titled "American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World" that I would encourage anyone to read on this topic (here is a link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48835.AmericanHolocaust )
Here is a link to notable quotes from the book: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/
Here is a link to a lecture of Stannard talking about this topic: https://www.youtube.com/
4. Check out https://www.amazon.com/
Link to her speaking about the topic here: https://www.youtube.com/
In the pre-Columbian era, before the "discovery" of the "New World", the Americas were hot to a multiplicity of nations and tribes of peoples, many of which had their own unique languages (estimated to be in the range of two-thousand) and cultures that are thought to have inhabited the land for at least eighteen-thousand years (Stannard). Estimates on the amount of indigenous peoples that inhabited the Americas prior to 1492 range substantially in number from various scholars; Miller suggests a range of 40 to 70 million (while noting that he is aware that some estimates are as high as 115 million) while David E. Stannard (largely drawing from the "Berkeley School") submits that the true figure lies no less than 75 to 100 million (also noting that a notable specialist in the field proposed a figure of 145 million or more) (Stannard, 11). Although the exact quantity of indigenous peoples to the Americas is not known, it is clear (from a variety of detailed analyses as well as writing of Spaniards such as La Casas) that this was a densely populated region full of activity from the Native peoples. This would come to an abrupt end once the Santa Maria and other ships in Christopher Columbus's fleet arrived at the end of the 15th century.
The Spaniards are reported to have kidnapped, enslaved, brutalized and carried out especially callous mass murder campaigns against the Native populations they encountered in the Americas. La Casas wrote in "A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies" ;
"The Spaniards first assaulted the innocent Sheep...like most cruel Tygers, Wolves, and Lions hunger-starv'd studying nothing, for the space of Forty Years, after their first landing, but the Massacre of these Wretches, whom they have so inhumanely and barbarously butcher'd and harass'd with several kinds of Torments, never before known, or heard...that of Three Millions of Persons, which lived in Hispaniola itself, there is at present but the inconsiderable remnant of scarce Three Hundred" (La Casas)
In addition to the intentional destruction carried out by the Spaniards onto the Native Americans, they also brought with them microbes that led to mass outbreak of pernicious diseases amongst their population. The combination of force, disease, and starvation (largely from destruction of crops or displacement from homes) inflicted upon the indigenous peoples had catastrophic effects for them. By the end of the 16th century, approximately 200,000 Spaniards had moved into the Indies, Mexico, Central America, and locations further south while, in contrast, somewhere in the range of 60,000,000 to 80,000,000 Native Americans were dead (Stannard, 95). Moreover, the devastation continued for another three centuries by Europeans that invaded the Americas and ultimately annexed the land (at the expense of the native population) (Stannard).
In "An Environmental History of Latin America", Miller describes the environmental rejuvenation that ensued as a direct consequence of the clearing of the land that was previously exploited by human activity (of the native peoples) as well as the introduction of new livestock that amalgamated to produce greater food supply. As an implication of this, Miller proclaims, "In addition, by the introduction of livestock, America gained a fabulous selection of meats that had previously been unavailable. A few Eurasian introductions backfired, but on the whole, for humans, the New World was literally the best of both worlds" (Miller, 61). When reading Miller's statement, one has to question; for which humans was the New World better? For the Native peoples who (as we have seen) are being annihilated at an unprecedented magnitude and rate? Or for the Europeans who newly inhabited the land? And if so, at what cost? It is undoubtedly true that if you were to remove 95 percent of the population from any continent today, that the environment and ecology would burgeon as a direct result for the reasons Miller described. However, does this justify the annihilation of entire peoples? Does anyone accept that justification? In my view, when weighting the direct and indirect consequences of the Columbian Exchange (both pros and cons) as well as the chain of events that it has spurred, it can be conservatively concluded to be amongst histories greatest tragedies.
1. Miller, Shawn William. An Environmental History of Latin America.
2. Stannard, David E. American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World
3. Las Casas, Bartolome De. A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies