Christopher Columbus and his Famous Voyage

Columbus Day is coming up on Monday, October 12th, and students are getting ready for another three-day weekend. “I will probably play lacrosse and soccer, and maybe read,” sixth grader Cade Cupit said. But do students really think about why they get a break from school? “It [Columbus Day] is the first day of their [Columbus and his crew’s] journey to wherever they were going,” said Cupit. While everybody knows Columbus Day is a break from school, there are a lot of misconceptions about the actual event.

Click to Enlarge. Infographic created by ELLIE Brandes on
Click to Enlarge. Infographic created by ELLIE Brandes on

Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 with his three famous ships, the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. However, according to Christopher Klein, the Nina and Pinta were not the two ships’ real names. The ships were originally named after saints, but sailors gave them the names Pinta, which means “painted one”, and Nina, named after her owner, Juan Nino. Sadly, when Columbus reached the Americas, the Santa Maria was wrecked on Christmas Eve, leading to a miserable Christmas.

When Columbus landed in the New World, most assumed that he was the first to ‘discover’ it. In reality, he was not. A viking by the name of Leif Eriksson was the first to contaminate the fresh American soil with his European boots, about 400 years before Columbus. He found North America by accident when he sailed off course on his way to Greenland after a visit to Norway. He called the area where he landed Vinland because of the multitude of wild grapes and rich soil. Today, that area is actually eastern Canada. There is also some evidence that the Chinese admiral Zheng came across America as well. Although even before them, Native Americans crossed over into America many thousands of years ago, on the Bering land bridge during the Ice Age.

But wait, did Columbus even set foot in America? Surprisingly, he didn’t. He actually landed in the Caribbean, in Central America. Columbus never actually saw what would become the United States of America.     

Even if Columbus didn’t discover North America, or set foot in the U.S., he did set up a successful European settlement, right? Wrong again. Columbus ruled his settlement in Hispaniola, named Santo Domingo, with cruelty and brutality. He treated the natives terribly, enslaving lots of them, and even executed some of his own men using the gallows. Because of this behavior he was arrested, charged of mismanagement, and returned to Europe in chains.  

Columbus Day was first celebrated in the 18th century, but did not become a national holiday until 1937. Luckily for students it did become a holiday, because a three-day weekend is definitely something to celebrate. But what if the wrong person is being celebrated? Perhaps Leif Erikson day or Native American day should be celebrated instead, because Columbus did not discover or even set foot in America. States such as South Dakota are actually calling Columbus Day ‘Native American Day’, which started in 1989, and Alabama celebrates Columbus and American Indian Heritage Day. On Columbus Day, enjoy your Monday off, and maybe think about the true story of Christopher Columbus for a change…