From the moment a sailor aboard the Pinta sighted land from the sea, on October 12, 1492, the course of indigenous history was forever changed. Upon landing on what is now the Bahamas, once known as Guanahani, Columbus encountered indigenous peoples of the Lucayan, Taíno or Arawak, nations. Peaceful and friendly, Columbus and his Spanish explorers manipulated their hospitality and mercilessly slaughtered, enslaved, and stole lands in the name of the Spanish crown. He wrote of them in his journal, "They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them."
In his four voyages to the Americas, traveling extensively throughout the Caribbean and Central America, each voyage became more deadly than the first. Within two years of his initial landing historians estimate that half of what is believed to have been 250,000 Taino people were massacred. Remaining survivors were either sold into European slavery, forced to mine gold for the Spaniards in the Americas, and many later died of disease.
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What we have failed to realize in the United States is that Native American history is our history. If we are to call ourselves "Americans" we must honor and respect the first peoples of the Americas. So on this day, let us reconsider why we celebrate Columbus Day and not Indigenous People's Day.