What kind of man was Christopher Columbus and what really happened when he arrived in the Americas? According to his own log, his first impression of the inhabitants of North America was that they would make fine servants. He wrote: "With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want." He wrote this after describing the generous welcome he and his men received from the Arawak Indians. Columbus' log further illustrates his intentions regarding the Indians: "As soon as I arrived in the Indies [Bahamas], on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts." His interest was in gold and slaves.
Harvard historian and sailor, Samuel Eliot Morison, authored the multi-volume biography, Christopher Columbus: Mariner, and retraced Columbus' sailing route across the Atlantic ocean. In the biography, Morison paints Columbus primarily as an outstanding seaman with "superb faith in God and in his own mission as the Christ-bearer to the lands beyond the seas . . ." However, he does briefly mention Columbus' "cruel policy" that resulted in "complete genocide" of the Indians.
In a report to the Court in Madrid, promising "as much gold as they need . . . and as many slaves as they ask", Columbus wrote: "Thus and eternal God, our Lord, gives victory to those who follow His way over apparent impossibilities." He was given seventeen ships and more than twelve hundred men with which he traveled from island to island in the Caribbean, taking Indians as slaves. Even after a large percentage of the Indians died in transit, Columbus wrote: "Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold."
School children are given another story, one which paints Christopher Columbus as an adventurer, a discoverer, and a forefather of human progress. Children are taught to celebrate Christopher Columbus and what he did when he came to the Americas.
In 1990, Indian representatives from all over the Western hemisphere met in Quito, Ecuador to mobilize against "the glorification of the Columbus conquest."
In 1992, Native Americans and other Americans staged the first nationwide protest denouncing the annual celebration of Columbus Day. In following years, the movement to cease honoring the man who instigated the genocide of the indigenous peoples of North America grew. The National Council of Churches recommended that Christians cease celebrating and issued the statement: "What represented newness of freedom, hope and opportunity for some was the occasion for oppression, degradation and genocide for others."
Who was Christopher Columbus? By his own admission, he was a slave trader, a conquerer. He instigated the genocide of a people and he is widely celebrated for it.