To the Editor:
A debate regarding the legacy of Christopher Columbus has been playing out in the Northwest Herald, and I think that a fact-check is certainly in order here, particularly in reference to the letter “Christopher Columbus is a hero.”
First, a claim is made that the Indians Columbus first encountered were violent, cannibalistic warriors.
To quote directly from Columbus himself, “... they do not bear arms, and do not know them. ... When you ask for something they have, they never say no.” According to Columbus himself, the native people were – while certainly having their own conflicts – generally a kind, gentle people. Another tidbit from the hero’s journal, in reference to the natives: “Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.”
Columbus, in an attempt to gain the favor of the Spanish crown for further expedition, also personally engaged in a slave raid on the Arawaks in 1495. Later, he would help to institute the encomienda system, in which natives who did not collect their share of gold for the Spaniards would be violently tortured and often killed.
Second, we must dispense with the notion that Columbus discovered the Earth was round. By this time, scientists and most commoners were aware of this. In fact, Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the Earth with 99.84 percent accuracy. About 200 B.C., Christopher Columbus himself writes that his journey was based on these figures.
Christopher Columbus is no hero.