American hero or killer?

Jenny Glasscock, staff writer

Every year, Joliet West celebrates Columbus Day by getting a day off from school. We all know the reason we pay tribute to the day as a holiday: it was when Christopher Columbus sailed to the Americas and claimed the land we live on today. But a controversial question has arisen, should we really glorify Columbus as a hero?

Because of Columbus, thousands of the natives who lived in the Americas suffered and were killed. Columbus and his crew came to the new land, saw the natives, and decided they would make good slaves.

There’s a quote from his journal from the time they first landed that reads, “They willingly traded everything they owned…They do not bear arms. They would make fine servants…With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

This is evidence that Columbus had no intent of being peaceful with the natives. From the time he arrived, he intended on conquering them and using them to show him where the gold was.

Columbus truly thought that gold was the most important thing in life. He thought it was the ticket to heaven, which was why he was so committed to getting the most he could; a few years before he passed, he said, “Gold is the most precious of all commodities; gold constitutes treasure, and he who possesses it has all he needs in the world, as also the means of recusing souls from purgatory, and restoring them to the enjoyment of paradise.”

Although he thought his goal was justifiable, his means of achieving the gold was violent and terrible. He ordered all natives ages 14 and older to collect a certain amount of gold every three months. If they failed to achieve this, their hands would be cut off and they often died of blood loss. Two years after Columbus’s initial invasion, half of the 250,000 Indians had been killed from attempting to flee, resisting, and suicide.

So if Columbus did all of these terrible things, why on earth would we celebrate him as a hero? Without him, the United States wouldn’t exist as we know it today. Because of him, millions flocked to the America to settle, bringing with them not only their knowledge but their culture. In turn, Columbus brought gold and spices back to Europe to enrich their continent as well.

Most textbooks tell us that Columbus was a hero, but they can sometimes be deceiving— they don’t tell us how he causes hundreds of thousands of deaths and even more suffering. We need that knowledge in order to judge him ourselves.

So now that you have this information, the question still remains: Is Christopher Columbus truly a hero?