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Each year, more cities, states and universities opt to celebrate an alternative to Columbus Day: Indigenous Peoples’ Day. While activists claim that Columbus was not a hero, he was an invader who made slavery of the people in the new world.

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Dieter Hovorka

CTO, Co-founder, Skillz Middle East

Columbus Day is a national holiday in many countries of the Americas and elsewhere which officially celebrates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s setting foot in the Americas 1492. Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer and navigator, born in the Republic of Genoa. In 1492 on an expedition sponsored by King Ferdinand of Spain, he was searching for a new route to India when he was surprised to discover the new world.

Between 1492 and 1504, he made a total of 4 voyages to the Caribbean and South America and has been credited for opening up the Americas to European colonization. Columbus first went to sea as a teenager, participating in several trading voyages in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas.

Later he would sail to the Atlantic Ocean in 1476 and on his first trip nearly cost him his life as the commercial fleet he was sailing with was attacked by French privateers off the coast of Portugal. He lost his ship, it was burned and Columbus had to swim to the Portuguese shore. He made his way to Lisbon, Portugal, where he eventually settled and married. He got a son and moved back to Spain after his wife died.

Did you know?


Contrary to popular belief, most educated Europeans in Columbus’ day understood that the world was round, but they did not yet know that the Pacific Ocean existed. As a result, Columbus and his contemporaries assumed that only the Atlantic lay between Europe and the riches of the East Indies.

Since Muslim dominated the trade routes through the Middle East travel eastward was difficult. Columbus planned a route to sail west across the Atlantic to reach Asia escaping this hassle. He estimated the earth to be a sphere and the distance between the Canary Islands and Japan to be about 2,300 miles but did not know that the Americas are in the middle on his route. Columbus was traveling with three ships with the main one called Santa Maria with a length of not even 25 meters. 90mman on each ship had to sleep in shifts to accommodate the space on the ship.

Where Did Columbus Land?

After 36 days of sailing westward across the Atlantic, Columbus and several crewmen set foot on an island. Today this island is known as Bahamas and Columbus claimed it for Spain. They met a small group of locals who have been happy to trade with the new friend’s parrots, cotton and spears. They also discovered gold with the friendly locals.  Still, under their mission, the ships continued their voyage and landed in Cuba which Columbus believed is mainland China, Haiti and the Dominican Republic was known as Hispaniola, which Columbus thought might be Japan.

Back to present day Columbus Day

Instead of honoring Christopher Columbus, the Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes Native Americans, who were the first inhabitants of the land that later became the United States of America. Advocates for the switch to Indigenous Peoples Day argue that Columbus did not “discover” America in 1492 but instead began the colonization of it. For decades, Native American activists have advocated abolishing Columbus Day, which became a federal holiday in 1937.

This year, both Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Columbus Day are on Monday, Oct. 9. However, Columbus Day commemorates the date when Christopher Columbus first set foot in the Americas. In the USA it is observed on the second Monday in October.

Though Columbus Day is one of the 10 US legal federal holidays, it is not considered a major one. There will be no postal service and while some banks may close, most businesses remain open. Retail stores may run special sales.

Back in 1992 Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Berkeley, California in 1992, has been the first conductor to adopt Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day. The 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492 was reason enough to rethink history. It later spread to Santa Cruz, California in 1994, and then to various other cities and states beginning in the mid-to-late 2010s. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is held on the second Monday of October.

Until today Americas is split into two days of celebration and not even on the State level it is conform. It is decided on city level which one of the both days to celebrate. Only two cities celebrate both days, Village of Lewiston, New York and Brunswick, Maine.


Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples' Day



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