Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States tells an alternative version from what we learned in school. Columbus “discovered” the New World, which was actually the Bahamas, on his quest to find a new route to Asia. He found an island populated by Arawaks:
They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned… . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.
Columbus proceeded to capture many of these natives as prisoners to take back to Europe. Most of them didn’t survive the trip. He later returned to find what treasure he could plunder, take more prisoners, and use women and children as sex slaves. The European invasion of the Americas, which began 500 years ago, resulted in the near-extinction of the native population, otherwise known as “savages” and “uncivilized” people. Those that still remain are somewhat rankled by a holiday that celebrates the “discovery” of a land that was nearly as densely populated as the continent from which the discoverers arrived. The “settlers” of this wild land of savages have since wiped nearly all traces of Native culture from its high school textbooks, with the few exceptions of mostly untrue accounts accepted as fact, including the story of the first Thanksgiving. Happy Columbus Day!