What ever happened to Columbus Day?

Savannah Keller

On October 9, 2017, Christopher Columbus Day was acknowledged throughout the United States to commemorate the historical figure, who was thought to be the pioneer of America. During the years of attending school, students have had a day off on the second Monday of October as a token of respect towards Christopher Columbus. However, in these past years since around 2015, the abrupt end of this celebration has stirred up inquiries. So, what happened to Christopher Columbus Day, and why isn’t it celebrated anymore?

In recent years, the history surrounding Columbus has evolved for the worst, and many historians and social rights activists are focused on what Columbus was obscuring underneath the heroic disguise.

During Columbus’s stay in America, addressed as “The New World,” he ordered thousands of Native Americans to be dispatched from Hispaniola to Spain and then be sold; many died en route. Columbus was later punished for his grisly methods – demanding control of the Americas in their entirety, attempting to mold the land into a European society, segregating the Native Americans – and he was later accused of mismanagement. His governorship and reputation was taken away before being sent home alongside his brothers.

Furthermore, students have recently been taught that Columbus was not the very first explorer to discover America after all. People had been residing in America long before his arrival. Indigenous people inhabited the continent during the ice age approximately 12,000 years ago, and a band of vikings also settled into America early on in recorded history. One of those colonists was a man that students have come to be familiar with over the past years: Leif Eriksson. Eriksson was a Norwegian viking who is considered to be the first European to step foot in North America, almost four centuries before Columbus.

If this is the case, why did we honor Christopher Columbus for so long? For over a decade, historians relentlessly speculated that Columbus wasn’t the true pioneer of America. However, sufficient evidence was never provided to validate their claims. Americans went on to celebrate this holiday annually, oblivious to the underlying truth.

Mr. Swierzbinski, a Social Studies teacher in the Middle Years Program at Dickinson, said, “In recent decades, Columbus has become a controversial figure as some see his ‘discovery’ of the Americas as being the first step to instituting slavery and wiping out Native American peoples and their cultures.” Then, he added, “Many cities and four states (Alaska, Minnesota, California, and Vermont) celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day rather than Columbus Day on October 9 this year.” Ever since this epiphany was brought into the limelight, Delaware students haven’t taken a day off on Christopher Columbus day in recognition of the notorious Italian explorer.

Are these the reasons why celebrating Christopher Columbus Day isn’t particularly significant at Dickinson anymore?

Mr. Murphy, the principal at John Dickinson High School, said, “The Board of Education makes the final decision on what holidays are observed in the district calendar and which are not.” He added, “So, John Dickinson High School is not for or against giving students a day off in recognition of Columbus Day or any other holiday.”

Although we have become accustomed to having a day off on Christopher Columbus Day, the Board of Education for our district has a consensus on which holidays are to be acknowledged and which are not, according to Principal Murphy. As for Columbus Day, it is not an observed holiday in the state of Delaware, the reason unknown. Nonetheless, Christopher Columbus is no longer held up by many as the paragon of heroism he once was.