Columbus Day will be celebrated with parades all over the U.S. on Monday, but many say Americans should just forget the holiday altogether.
The United States celebrates Columbus Day on the second Monday of October each year to mark Italian explorer Christopher Columbus' Oct. 12, 1492 arrival on the American continent in what is now the Bahamas. Columbus' expedition kicked off centuries of European colonization of North and South America that shaped the current makeup of those continents. But history has not been so kind to Columbus' reputation.
For starters, he may not even have been the first European to set foot in the Americas. It is believed that Norse Viking Leif Eriksson was the first to set sail across the Atlantic ocean around 1,000 A.D. when he landed in Newfoundland about five centuries before Columbus left for the New World.
And while history has often credited Columbus with discovering America, Native American tribes and civilizations predate his famous voyage and Columbus' treatment of those peoples remains a point of contention and controversy today. Columbus forced thousands of natives into labor and kidnapped hundreds more to send back to Spain, which had commissioned his voyage.
The violence Columbus used to intimidate and suppress resistance from the native population was severe. By some estimates, the population of Hispaniola, approximately 300,000 in 1492, was reduced to a mere 60,000 by 1508, including more than 50,000 who killed themselves to escape Columbus' brutal oppression. By 1548, the number of natives is estimated to have been just 500.
In response, a growing movement of people, led by Native American ancestors in America, now challenge the United States' observance of Columbus Day as a federal holiday. In many U.S. cities and states, the holiday has been renamed Native Americans Day or Indigenous Peoples' Day to honor the damage done to those populations by the subsequent exploration and colonization of the continent. And a 2015 HuffPost/YouGov survey found that as many as 38 percent of Americans do no believe the U.S. should celebrate Columbus Day at all. Only 41 percent think it should be a federal holiday.