Columbus Day is full of controversy nowadays. We understand, more than ever, the truth behind Christopher Columbus, leaving parents to wonder what to teach their kids.
If you’ve paid attention to the news during the last few years, you are sure to notice that many people protest the celebration of Christopher Columbus. Some cities have even renamed the day.
Some people stick to the idea that Christopher Columbus was a brazen explorer, heading off to find a brand new world. He is legendary, but there is an underside to the story. Columbus also was a slave trader who murdered the natives where he landed. So, the question is what do we teach our kids on Columbus Day? The answer is the truth.
The Basic Truths
The first place to start with your kids is the basic truth. Columbus, with the help of Queen Isabela of Spain, embarked on a huge journey. However, unlike what you might think, his purpose wasn’t to find a brand new world. Many people believe that his goal was to prove that the world was not flat, a common theory at the time.
One of his main goals was to find a new trade route to eastern Asia by sailing west. Doing so would make trade easier and increase his riches. Columbus also hoped to find gold to bring back to Europe. Instead of finding Asia, Columbus discovered Caribbean islands.
Did Columbus Find the Americas First?
Columbus holds the fame for being the first to discover America, but is his claim to fame truthful? Despite common thought, we know that other groups traveled to the Americas long before Columbus. The Vikings created settlements in Newfoundland and Greenland in the 10th century. The Polynesians, who sailed the seas for centuries, landed in South America nearly a full century before Columbus.
The Hidden Side
Parents should introduce the truth behind Christopher Columbus’ time in the Americas. Despite friendly pictures created in textbooks, he left behind a wake of destruction and murder. Instead of finding gold, Columbus gained his riches by selling the native inhabitants into slavery.
Just how destructive was Columbus? Many scholars believe that the population of Haiti and surrounding islands was between 1.5 and 3 million. Solid numbers are impossible to know. However, we do know that in 1496 a census done by Bartholomew Columbus put the number of natives close to 1.1 million. By 1555, there were no native Hispaniola inhabitants left. Some of the deaths were due to the inhabitants contracting diseases brought by the sailors. They had no natural immunities against diseases such as smallpox.
The history and controversy surrounding Christopher Columbus is a topic you should carefully introduce to a child ready to learn of such things. History has many stories where villains were made to be heroes. Allow your child, if interested, the opportunity to research Columbus on his own. Developing his own opinion could be a great history project and spark an interest in the past.