Columbus' Journals Tell A Dark History

In 2nd grade, on Columbus Day, we sat at a long table eating lunch, followed by dancing and singing together dressed up like pilgrims and Indians. Now an act that I would identify as racism and cultural appropriation, the playful impression I was taught of Columbus was far from the truth. I find it repulsive that my teachers could have facilitated such sick misrepresentation of the biggest genocide in the world's history, and a history that is fundamental to the USA. The United States has become one of the top developed nations in the world in part because of our access to develop land as a relatively new nation. But maybe the only reason that America is still as beautiful as it is, is because Christopher Columbus came so late. In 1492, there was an array of civilizations and cultures inhabiting the Americas. Many of which, are the best governmental models we know of for sustainable societies. But once Columbus did come, he established a pattern of environmental exploitation, religious persecution, and violent human oppression that would still hold 500 years later. Christopher Columbus’ journal illustrates his personal plans, encounters, and reflections that are one of the only existing documentations of the genocide that took place.

Christopher Columbus established his racism and ego right away in the introduction of journal.

So after having expelled the Jews from your dominions, your Highnesses, ...ordered me to proceed with a sufficient armament to the said regions of India... and ennobled me that thenceforth I might call myself Don, and be High Admiral of the Sea, and perpetual Viceroy and Governor in all the islands and continents which I might discover and acquire, or which may hereafter he discovered and acquired in the ocean... (Friday, 3 August 1492).

Did you know? Columbus set sail on August 3, 1492, only one day after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain began. Want to know another bit of background? 50 years before the Columbus voyage, in 1452, a proclamation was issued by Pope Nicholas V declaring war on all non-Christians. It specifically encouraged the conquest, colonization, and exploitation of non-Christian nations.

The next two months of August and September were rocky for the fleet. The journals cover waves, birds, and notes of floating sticks, in order to get some ideas about where they were. One can deduce through the text the growing feeling that they are lost. Yet upon reaching land on October 11th, 1492, the famous "discovery" was an intrusion on a range of cultures and civilizations.

As I saw that they were very friendly to us, and perceived that they could be much more easily converted to our holy faith by gentle means than by force... Afterwards they came swimming to the boats, bringing parrots, balls of cotton thread, javelins, and many other things which they exchanged for articles we gave them, such as glass beads, and hawk's bells; which trade was carried on with the utmost good will. But they seemed on the whole to me, to be a very poor people. They all go completely naked, even the women... All whom I saw were young, not above thirty years of age, well made, with fine shapes and faces; their hair short, and coarse like that of a horse's tail... Weapons they have none, nor are acquainted with them, for I showed them swords which they grasped by the blades, and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their javelins being without it, and nothing more than sticks, though some have fish-bones or other things at the ends. They are all of a good size and stature, and handsomely formed... It appears to me, that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion. They very quickly learn such words as are spoken to them. If it please our Lord, I intend at my return to carry home six of them to your Highnesses... (Thursday, 11 October).

Columbus reaches conclusions regarding the people he meets. From the very first contact he has with native people, he has domination and enslavement in mind. Oh, and don't forget the gold.

I was very attentive to them, and strove to learn if they had any gold. Seeing some of them with little bits of this metal hanging at their noses, I gathered from them by signs that by going southward or steering round the island in that direction, there would be found a king who possessed large vessels of gold, and in great quantities (Saturday, 13 October).

Columbus and his fleet were entering into a fully populated world. That much is clear. Was the western society that Columbus opened the door for really more civilized? People killing each other? The european nations were familiar with the systematic war and oppression between those who conquer and those who are conquered. This pattern that still exists today.

I could conquer the whole of them with fifty men, and govern them as I pleased. Near the islet I have mentioned were groves of trees, the most beautiful I have ever seen, with their foliage as verdant as we see in Castile in April and May. There were also many streams. After having taken a survey of these parts, I returned to the ship, and setting sail, discovered such a number of islands that I knew not which first to visit; the natives whom I had taken on board informed me by signs that there were so many of them that they could not be numbered; they repeated the names of more than a hundred (Sunday, 14 October).

About sunset we anchored near the cape which terminates the island towards the west to enquire for gold, for the natives we had taken from San Salvador told me that the people here wore golden bracelets upon their arms and legs (Monday, 15 October).

Here is no village, but farther within the island is one, where our Indians inform us we shall find the king, and that he has much gold. I shall penetrate so far as to reach the village and see or speak with the king, who, as they tell us, governs all these islands, and goes dressed, with a great deal of gold about him (Friday, 19 October).

After having dispatched a meal, I went ashore, and found no habitation save a single house, and that without an occupant; we had no doubt that the people had fled in terror at our approach, as the house was completely furnished... Afterwards I shall set sail for another very large island which I believe to be Cipango, according to the indications I receive from the Indians on board. (Sunday, 21 October).

This is evidence that Columbus incited a deep fear in the people of the Americas, and was a textbook definition of a terrorist. The 'legal' Doctrine of Discovery justified Christopher Columbus' fleet alone killing an estimated 4 million Americans. But it didn't stop there. An estimated 10+ million Native Americans, about the population of Sweden today, were living in the United States before European explorers first arrived, and by 1990 there were only 300,000 left. Talk about immigration problems. Happy Christopher Columbus Day.


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