October 10, 2011 - Columbus Day (U.S.)

National Day of Mourning (Native American)
Thanksgiving Day (Canada)

Christopher Columbus and his sailors spotted land on October 12, 1492, but in the U.S. Columbus Day is celebrated on the second Monday in October. Some people don't wish to “celebrate” the arrival of the Italian navigator who sailed on behalf of the Spanish Empire and began the colonization of the Americas. Instead, they mourn that arrival as the death and destruction of the native peoples of North, South, and Central America. Some write about Columbus in terms of horrifying cruelty, barbaric punishments, enslavement, and violence. I think everyone can agree that he was a terrible governor!

Coincidentally, the second Monday of October is also Canada's Thanksgiving Day. Although I read that this holiday isn't as big a deal as Thanksgiving in the U.S., especially in Quebec (French Canada), it is a time for many Canadians to get together with family and to feast.

Did Columbus “Discover” America?

You already know that Christopher Columbus was not the first person to discover the Americas. All the ancestors of the Native Americans discovered these continents long ago, coming over from Asia on a land bridge in many different waves starting about 16 thousand years ago. There is some evidence that shows that Polynesians paddled their way across the Pacific Ocean to the Americas by boat at some time in the past, and there is definite evidence that Lief Ericson and the Vikings arrived by ship, going across the Atlantic Ocean, nearly 500 years before Columbus.

You probably also know that Columbus didn't realize that he had sailed to a “New World,” to continents that had been previously unknown to Europeans. Instead, he was sure that he had reached islands that were part of the Indies, far away in Southeast Asia! He was sure, but he was wrong.

Still, Columbus's voyages did bring the New World to the forefront of European attention for the first time, setting into motion the colonization of the lands by Spain, Portugal, England, France, the Netherlands, and other European nations.

Learn more, do crafts, and create mini-books at Enchanted Learning. Or make tiny models of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria—plus find lots of other ideas—at Kaboose.

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