What the general public is unaware of and needs to come to terms with is that there is no room for information which cannot be proven in the world of historical research. History is a science. And for those who conduct historical research seriously and treat it as a science, gather historical documents, news articles, journals, court cases, diaries, letters, and reference sources all of which their conclusions are based. It is this method which I used for determining the character of Christopher Columbus and charging him with crimes against the Indian people of the West Indies. This article is the product of records which will clearly point out, that from the very beginning Columbus purpose was not mere exploration or trade, but conquest and exploitation of the Indian tribes of the West Indies. African American students who are studying this article will be informed that the Indian people who Columbus oppressed, had physical features very similar if not identical to theirs. This enlightening piece of information grants the student a personal connection to this article and gives sound reasons for not glorifying Columbus.
The following statements are from Columbus journal October 13 1492 with him giving his description the Arawak Indians who inhabited most of the islands in the Caribbean and what his vile intentions were. “Their hair is coarse almost like the hair of a horse’s tail and short. Their eyes are large and very beautiful. They are not black, but the color of the inhabitants of Canaries. The word Canary was a code word communicated among authorities of the Spanish empire. The word Canary was defined as the extermination of the native people of those islands. Later as we shall see the definition of Canary materialized in the violent actions of Columbus. He later went on say .” I showed them some pieces of gold which I have; I cannot not fail with the aid of our Lord to find the place where it comes.” Michele de Cuneo wrote about accompanying Columbus on his 1494 expedition into the interior of Haiti: “ After we had rested for several days in our settlement, it seemed to the Lord Admiral that it was time to put his desire to search for gold, which was the main reason he had started on so a great voyage full of so many dangers.” At dawn the next day Columbus sailed to probably what is known today as the Bahamas Island. He ended his description with these sinister words, “I would conquer the whole of them with fifty men and govern them as I pleased.”
Columbus onslaught of the natives of the Caribbean Islands was also reinforced by the Spanish monarchy. There was an urgent need for slaves for mining and agriculture to sustain the colony. Slave labor supplied the Spanish crown with revenues which had a devastating affect among St. Croix and the Virgin Islands. Columbus had obtained two concessions from the Spanish monarchs, one which he would later regret was to allow criminals to be released from prisons to go to the colonies.
A Spanish slave system was now put in place which would dominate the Caribbean Islands for centuries. The Repartimientos, a system for granting allotments of land and the Island natives to Spanish settlers. By 1505 the need for slave labor had become such a natural dependence, that slave raiding the Bahamas had become a profession and the first Negro slaves by and large were brought not from Africa but from the population already in Spain and in the Atlantic sugar islands brining important skills with them. Keep in mind that Columbus acted independently to exploit the native population without the instruction of the Spanish administration. The following are statements from Columbus letter of March 1493. “ On the thirty-third day after I departed from the Canary Islands;(code word meaning prime for extermination), I came to the Indian sea, where I found islands inhabited by men without number, of all which I took possession for our most fortunate king, with proclaiming heralds and flying standards , no one objecting. Yet I especially took possession of a certain, large town in a very convenient location, and adapted to all kinds of gain and commerce, to which we give the name of Lord of the Nativity.” Without any regard for the natives Columbus constructed a fort confining the natives,(a prison) and a military force for defense in the event the natives would rebel.
“ And should wish to hurt those who remain in the fort, they would not be able, because they lack weapons, they go naked and are too cowardly. For that reason those who said fort are least able to resist easily this whole island, without any imminent danger to themselves, so long as they do not transgress the regulations and command we gave.” Students should ask themselves what would be the purpose for Columbus with placing the inhabitants of the Caribbean Islands in lock up? A group of people who were non- threating and never imposed any danger to Columbus or his naval forces. According to the historian James W. Loewen, on Haiti the Indians were forced to mine gold for the Spanish settlers. Another stomach-turning aspect of the slave trade was sexual. Columbus was rewarding his lieutenants with women to rape. For Spaniards sex slaves came in abundance in the form of gifts. Moral crimes of rape, forced slavery, prison confinement, and theft all add up to the undeniable fact that Christopher Columbus was a notorious criminal. After reading this article students should come to terms that Columbus is not a national hero, nor a role model. Cherishing Columbus is a characteristic of myth not reality. Worst of all Columbus left a legacy of genocide and a history of bloody horrors.
By: Herbert Addison Burns
1.Christopher Columbus and the Enterprise of the indies: by Geoffrey Symcox and Blair Sullivan
2. Conquest of Eden 1493-1515: by Michael Paiewonsky
3. Lies My Teacher Told Me: James W. Loewen
4. The Journal of Christopher Columbus: Translated by Cecil Jane