Fact vs. myth

I’d like to rebut Nov. 18 letter to the editor seeking to abolish Columbus Day.

Myth: Columbus introduced slavery to the Americas and committed genocide on their inhabitants.

Fact: Slavery among the indigenous peoples themselves was already occurring when Christopher Columbus arrived, while the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History notes the mass importing of slaves from Africa to the Americas did not begin until 1526. Additionally, Carol Delaney writes in her book, Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem, that Columbus insisted on the ethical treatment of captured peoples, and cannot be justly blamed for atrocities committed by those he left in charge and by those who journeyed to the Western Hemisphere in the decades and centuries that followed.

Myth: Columbus brought disease to the Western Hemisphere.

Fact: Although some diseases were known to be contagious we knew about their cause and spread in the late 15th century, which made them difficult to control. For example, renowned Swiss physician Paracelsus believed diseases were the result of the effects of stars and planets upon human beings. Even the development of one of today’s most common medical devices, the microscope, was still over a century away. Since trade among the peoples of Europe, Africa and Asia was already well-established, introducing communicable diseases to those who had no immunity to them would have just as likely happened within the Eastern Hemisphere as between the East and the West. Therefore, claiming Columbus knowingly brought disease across the Atlantic holds no weight.

Myth: Columbus Day celebrates the annihilation of indigenous peoples.

Fact: Unlike V-E Day, which commemorate our victories over Axis forces in World War II, Columbus Day does not mark the conquest of Native Americans. According to the U.S. Code of Law (Title 36, Subtitle I, Part A, Chapter 1, Section 107), the people of the United States are to observe Columbus Day “… with appropriate ceremonies that express the public sentiment befitting the anniversary of the discovery of America.”

As for those who want to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, holidayinsights.com notes the latter already is observed the fourth Friday of September.