A recent letter to the editor from John Sens (July 28, “Columbus Day: Give credit where it’s due”) opined that regardless of who Grand Forks chooses to celebrate, Columbus should still be given the credit he is due. I couldn’t agree more.
We can’t credit him with discovering the earth was round; it was well-known by that time. He didn’t discover a new world; millions already lived there. He wasn’t the first European explorer; Leif Erikson beat him by 500 years. He wasn’t even the first in the U.S.; he never set foot here.
His actual accomplishments?
Columbus arrived in the Caribbean and met the Lucayan people, who he described as generous and hospitable. When the Santa María was shipwrecked, the Lucayans worked for hours to save the crew and cargo. Columbus returned from Spain with an army and demanded food, gold, and women and girls to rape. The Lucayans rebelled, and were slaughtered.
The wounded were fed alive to dogs. Many who survived were enslaved; some were sent to Spain, 200 dying en route, while others were kept to serve Columbus and his men. Those who did not deliver gold often enough would have a hand cut off to wear around their neck. Those who fled were hunted for sport. Women and girls were forced into sexual slavery. In a letter to a friend, he explained that girls aged 9-10 were in high demand.
The estimated indigenous death toll over the next 50 years from disease and starvation is 3-5 million people. His gold exports undermined the value of gold from Africa, leading to the rise of the slave trade. The mass colonization of the Americas led to higher demand for African slaves and the genocide and displacement of millions of indigenous people.
Sens’ letter highlights the “courage” of European explorers who endured perilous but elective ocean journeys and “armed attacks by ferocious natives.”
Interesting word choice: ferocious. Not one you’d typically use to describe human beings, but I guess the Herald has no problem propagating stereotypes or printing hate speech. The “great European explorers” venerated in this letter were perpetrators of slavery, genocide, and sex trafficking.