The Age of Exploration
In the Year 1893, in honour of the 400th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the New World (pretty close anyway... he arrived in 1492), the City of Chicago held the World's Columbian Exposition. This event was significant for a multitude of reasons. It was the place where the Ferris Wheel was first built. It was the place where Shredded Wheat, Juicy Fruit, Quaker Oats and the Moving Walkway were introduced to the world. Most of all, it was a celebration of Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the New World. In honour of the 400th anniversary of the event, the Spanish government sent replicas of the three ships, the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria to Chicago in celebration of the event. They are pictured below.
The Question of Columbus
The Exposition in Chicago was just one of many memorials to Columbus. The United States honours his memory every year on October 12 in remembrance of the event. The capital of Ohio is Columbus. The capital of South Carolina is Columbia. The capital of the United States, Washington, is located in the District of Columbia. In Canada there is British Columbia, in South America there is the nation of Colombia. Even across the ocean, the former capital of Sri Lanka is called Colombo. Countless books about Columbus have been written and memorials to his journey can be found everywhere from his home town of Genoa, Italy, to his adopted nation of Spain, to the Americas and Asia. But it is not universal.
Indigenous People's Day
On the 500th anniversary of the arrival in the Americas of Christopher Columbus, replicas of his three ships again travelled to America. As they planned to travel beneath San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, they were countered by the "Resistence 500" task force, who claimed that Columbus was responsible for the genocide of the indigenous people of the American continent. The task force convinced the nearby city of Berkeley, California to rename Columbus Day "Indigenous People's Day" to protest the occupation of native land by Europeans. Over time, the movement to celebrate Indigenous People's Day rather than Columbus Day has gained traction. Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon and South Dakota do not celebrate Columbus Day, and South Dakota celebrates Native American Day instead. In 2014 and 2015, the cities of Minneapolis, Seattle, Grand Rapids and Traverse City all decided to celebrate Indigenous People's Day instead of Columbus Day as well.
This is a controversial issue. Without doubt, Christopher Columbus' expedition changed the course of human history. No continent or people is the same today as it would have been without the sustained contact between the New and Old Worlds that exists today (yes, the Vikings got to North America first... but they didn't STAY - that's why there is no Leif Eriksson Day). But without question, the day is shrouded in contention. The story of European exploration is the the tale of two opposite views - one glorious, the other sinister.