Columbus Day renaming would instead honor cannibals

I am an unapologetic and loyal friend of the Native American people in our great nation. Without them, Americans would not have many of the luxuries we enjoy today. Countless Native people have given their lives and service to the United States by fighting in World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Iraq. Many have also shaped our government and culture, such as former Vice President Charles Curtis, and singer Johnny Cash.

Although the Native American people are an incredibly unique part of our society, and their culture should be honored, I believe that in America, we should have respect for one of the men who helped discover North America: Christopher Columbus.

Democrat Rep. Derrick Lente

New Mexico State Representative Derrick Lente (D-Sandia Pueblo) was reported on Monday to be preparing a bill that would rename the state holiday, currently known as “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” Rep. Lente cited “the persecutions, the enslavement, [and] the killings” by Christopher Columbus upon “native” people as a reason to rename the state holiday.

First of all, I fear for our state if this is the most important issue this sad excuse for a state lawmaker sees, when our state is failing in education, people in rural areas, (such as the constituency he represents) have little to no access to health care, many of our citizens are in poverty, and the drug epidemic is driving crime upwards.

Secondly, Rep. Lente is taking Christopher Columbus’ supposed “persecutions, enslavement, and killings” of “Indigenous People” extremely out of context. Columbus never traveled to what we now know as the United States, and the “Indigenous People” he met were not the nice, little, civilized angels Lente intends to try and paint them as.

When Columbus landed in the Bahamas at the Isle de Carib on his first voyage in 1492, he and his men were faced with the Taino tribe: people who feasted on the flesh of other men (Yes, I’m talking about cannibals), who considered baby flesh a particular delicacy.

The tribe killed and ate anyone who came ashore. The Taino stole the Spaniards’ clothes and burned down their settlements (not to mention eating them alive). Even though these vile people would do horrific things to Columbus and his men, he did not allow his crew to hurt them. If I were Columbus, I don’t know if I would have shown such restraint.

Portrait of Christopher Columbus at the U.S. Capitol by John Vanderlyn

On Columbus’ third voyage to Santo Domingo in 1498, he arrived at a settlement in shambles and a revolt led by local mayor Francisco Roldan, in which he was forced to act against the Natives. He had no other choice than to resort to violence due to Roldan’s horrible governance of the area. Columbus ended up being sent back to Spain in chains due to a mutiny but continued to live as a gracious and humble man until his death in 1506. Columbus wrote to the Spanish crown before he died:

“Let those who are fond of blaming and finding fault, while they sit safely at home, ask, ‘Why did you not do thus and so?’ I wish they were on this voyage; I well believe that another voyage of a different kind awaits them, or our faith is naught.”

I see Columbus as a great leader, torn from every direction by opportunistic political rivals, with a penchant to bring him down at every chance. He did his absolute best to help the Native people of North America, even though they attempted to murder and eat his men, burn his towns, and steal his goods. Christopher Columbus earned his national holiday with blood, sweat, and tears. The ignorance of one very ill-informed elected official is a disgrace to the Native American people of New Mexico and Christopher Columbus himself.

Rep. Derrick Lente is so blinded by opportunistic self-interest that he is desperately pandering to Native Americans by cheating Christopher Columbus out of his rightful state holiday.

No reparations need be paid to anyone for the life and legacy of Columbus, and Lente’s announcement shows just how out of touch he is with New Mexico and its people.

The Native American people of New Mexico are not the barbaric Taino people of Isle de Carib (Which is almost 2000 miles away), and Rep. Lente equating them with primitive cannibals is downright offensive. Shame on Rep. Lente, and shame on the people who support the desecration of one of the greatest men to ever step foot on American soil: Christopher Columbus.

I propose keeping Christopher Columbus Day intact while creating a brand new holiday for the beautiful Native American people in our state. This would placate both sides, and not attempt to destroy history.

I urge every New Mexican to call or email their New Mexico legislators to ask them to preserve Christopher Columbus’ legacy and protect his tireless attempts at making peace with the Native people he encountered on his voyages by voting against Rep. Lente’s proposal. You can find your legislators (including Rep. LenteHERE*.

*(Please note that NMLegis.gov may not be updated with the most current members of the New Mexico Legislature, and you may want to research who is your legislator in your respective districts.)

UPDATE: 2/7/19 

Lente’s House Bill 100, which tries to replace Columbus Day with “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” passed out of the New Mexico House, and now heads to the New Mexico Senate.

UPDATE: 3/15/2019

House Bill 100 passed the New Mexico Senate and now heads to the Governor’s desk for a signature after emotional debate.

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