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The REAL Legacy of Columbus

rethinking columbus day and the real first world war

“World War I.” That title should rightly go to the first true global conflict, Europe’s genocidal invasion of other regions that began in the final decade of the 15th century after Columbus landed on Hispaniola in 1492. While European historians have often downplayed the ferocity, extent and significance of that earlier conflict by treating it as a diffuse historical process, but if we accept that view it disables our understanding of everything that has happened since then.

Columbus never set foot in the land that would become the United States of America. In fact, he never even saw it. As few are likely to know much about what really happened, I will recount some salient points…

His four voyages took him to the Caribbean, a small detour to Central America, and a hop to the north-east coast of Venezuela. He had no idea the continent of North America existed, or that he had even stumbled into a “New World”. He thought he had found China, Japan, and the region of King Solomon’s fabled gold mines.

columbus day is terribleWhat he had categorically not done was “discover” anything, as somewhere between 50 to 100 million people already lived there quite happily, just as they had done for tens of thousands of years. On the other hand, what he did was to start a brutal slave trade in American Indians, and usher in four centuries of genocide that culled them to virtual extinction. Within a generation of Columbus landing, perhaps only 5-10 per cent of the entire American Indian population remained.

Ten years after Columbus landed on Hispaniola its indigenous people were extinct. Columbus in correspondance to his royal sponsors in Spain said they were “loving, uncovetous people,” with “good features and beautiful eyes,” who “neither carried weapons nor understood the use of such things.” Yet many were tortured to death in a vain attempt to get them to reveal non-existent hoards of gold and others worked to death or driven to suicide. Such gratuitous violence continued as Europeans extended their domains in the “New World.” (The Real First World War)

Many of the smaller tribes followed the Arawak of Hispaniola into extinction while the populations of larger groups fell by as much as 85 percent, victims not only of indiscriminate violence but of induced famines and new diseases to which they had no immunity. The spread of smallpox through blankets distributed free to Native Americans and the wanton slaughter of the great herds of bison on which the “Plains Indians” depended for food, clothing and shelter were the most outrageous cases of genocide. Estimates of the numbers killed range up to 100 million.

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