Commentary: Columbus discovered America? Think again

Don Decker

Don Decker

Monday, we celebrated the anniversary of Columbus’s “discovery” of the Americas. Columbus was an Italian explorer hired by Spain to find a new route to “India.” However, the name “India” was originally called ‘Hindustan’ at the time (not ‘India’) and when Columbus was keeping his diary, he used his limited Spanish to write in Spanish “Una gente in Dios” to describe the brown-skinned indigenous people of the Caribbean, which meant “A people of God.”

If you run the Spanish words “in Dios” together you get roughly “Indians’ in English which is a term that has been used exclusively by Indians to identify themselves in the modern setting: Apache Indians, Navajo Indians, Yavapai Indians, Hopi Indians, Zuni Indians, etc.

Interestingly, Columbus never set foot in what is now known as “America’.” This would include any of the states closest to the Caribbean Islands such as Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and the eastern starboard states up to Maine.

Only one other European, Leif Erikson (born in 970 A.D.), a Norseman from Iceland visited the North American continent in the vicinity of Maine (the Gulf of St. Lawrence) when the Sinagua Indians were making coiled clay pots in the canyons of what is now known as Sedona around 850 A.D. (600 years before Columbus).

The Tianos of the Caribbean greeted Columbus on his arrival near the present islands of Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic.

If there was even a more mistaken identity, it would be ‘Native Americans’, as it would imply that all Indians that were in the western hemisphere (North, Central and South America) prior to 1492 were ‘Americans’. ‘America’ is an Italian word derived from the name of Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512), an Italian sea scout who mapped the east coast of South America and the Caribbean Sea. The word ‘America’ is a derivative of Vespucci’s first name.

As if there weren’t any people living in all of the Caribbean when Columbus landed, it is estimated that there were 100 million at the end of the 15th century and many of those were in North ‘America, ’ including Mexico -- all Indians.

Whereas, in Europe, the population was 50 million from the west coast of Spain and as far east as the Ural Mountains (about 2,000 miles east of present day Moscow).

The primary diet of the Indians in the western hemisphere was maize (corn-a cash crop that determined all of the economies of Indians in the Western Hemisphere) wild fish, fruits, nuts, feathered birds (fowl) and many different kinds of animals such as deer and mountain goats.

Seven hundred years before the times of Columbus, an advanced Mayan civilization in Central ‘America’ had a calendar system that was more accurate than the Julian calendar today. All of the star constellations had been mapped out by the Mayans long before Medieval times in Europe.

At the time of Columbus, Peruvian Indians were conducting advanced neurosurgery and many kinds of pain killers such as novocaine were harvested from the Amazon jungles to be used in medical treatment.

This was before the deep fried foods (frybread was introduced by the Spaniards and their infamous cast iron skillet) and the introduction of wheat flour from Europe used in trade. Sugar was already made available with trade from South ‘American’ Indian tribes in Brazil and Paraguay using a jungle plant traditionally called ‘Guarani’ (it ka’ahe’e or “sweet herb”) to sweeten food for hundreds of years (Stevia/’Estevia’ is a product name sold in stores today).

The notion that “Columbus discovered America” is far from the truth. Unfortunately, the ancestors of Columbus (in a country where the Vatican is located) do not want to acknowledge that obvious mistake in Columbus getting lost and sailing in wrong direction of his intended journey.

Columbus Day will never be abolished for obvious reasons. But Indians in ‘America’ call this day ‘Indigenous People’s Day’ and voiding any references to ‘Columbus Day’.

Don Decker is the director of public relations for the Yavapai-Apache Nation.


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tbabbitt 5 months, 1 week ago

Columbus is considered the discoverer not because he was first but because he made a journal of his journey. Not only was he literate but he came from a civilization that was able to preserve that chronicle for the future allowing you to complain now.


IzzatSo 5 months, 1 week ago

To tbabbitt: Let's take a look at Columbus' journals. Shortly after he and his men came ashore, he wrote (about the islanders) in his log, "They would make fine servants... with fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want." He also wrote later, "As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts." And there you have it, in Columbus' own words, from day one, how his European attitude set the tone for all that has followed.


The_Uppity_Peasant 5 months, 1 week ago

tbabbitt: Mayans were literate and knew astronomy, mathematics, construction, etc. If Spaniards had not burned Mayan codices we would have much more info on Mayans.


IzzatSo 5 months, 1 week ago

OK, let's give Columbus a bit of a break here. He was just following orders, just a knight in the world chess game. The big mover (the king) in the game was the Christian God, and the queen (the power player) was the Roman Catholic Pope. In the middle ages the Popes made many proclamations (called papal bulls) which were not only concerned with controlling Catholic religion, but were often political as well. European kings and queens (ie: Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain and Alfonso V of Portugal, and others) often sought the Pope's counsel and permission before acting. In 1452, Pope Nicholas V issued two bulls, Romanus Pontifex and Dum Diversas. These declared war on non-Christians, particularly the Saracens, but also including other populations. Based on what is known as the Doctrine of Discovery, they specifically authorized explorers to “capture, vanquish, and subdue ... the enemies of Christ”, to “put them into perpetual slavery”, and “to take all their possessions and property.” Forty years later in 1492, Columbus sailed west with full confidence that he had the right, the authority of the Pope, to act as he did when he “discovered” the islands in the Caribbean. Interestingly, to this day we still say Columbus “discovered” the new world, not that he found it by accident. Indigenous people of the western hemisphere were obviously not Christians, so Columbus was just following orders concerning how he treated them. Now you can point your finger of anger and disgust at the truly responsible party - Pope Nicholas V.