BACKGROUND INFORMATION

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1 BACKGROUND INFORMATION LISTEN TO THE PODCAST https://soundcloud.com/global-travel-alliance/columbus-day-podcast-master History of The Columbus Day Celebration. The first recorded celebration honoring the discovery of America by Europeans took place on October 12, 1792 in New York City. The event celebrated the 300th anniversary of Columbus' landing in the New World. San Francisco's Italian community held their first Columbus Day celebration in In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison urged citizens to participate in the 400th anniversary celebration of Columbus' first voyage. It was during this event that the Pledge of Allegiance, written by Francis Bellamy, was recited publicly for the first time. Colorado was the first state to observe the holiday in In 1937, President Roosevelt proclaimed October 12 as "Columbus Day" and in 1971, President Nixon declared the second Monday of October a national holiday. Today many schools and businesses across the nation are closed in honor or Columbus Day. The nation observes the day with parades and parties, as well as with protests, demonstrations, and alternative holidays. Many Americans see Columbus as a hero, but more attention is being directed towards Columbus connection to the conquest of the Native Americans, spread of disease, forced religious conversion, and slavery.

2 1 Arguments FOR the Celebration of Columbus Day Columbus Day recognizes the achievements of a great Renaissance explorer who founded the first permanent European settlement in the New World. The arrival of Columbus in 1492 marks the beginning of recorded history in America. Columbus Day celebrates the beginning of cultural exchange between America and Europe. After Columbus, came millions of European immigrants who brought their art, music, science, medicine, philosophy and religious principles to America. These contributions have helped shape the United States and include Greek democracy, Roman law, Judeo-Christian ethics and the tenet (belief) that all men are created equal. Columbus Day is one of America s oldest and most Patriotic holidays. The holiday has been celebrated since Then in 1892, the pledge of allegiance was written in honor of the 400th anniversary of his first voyage. That year, President Benjamin Harrison declared Columbus Day a legal holiday. By opening America, Columbus brought the ideas and technology of scientists, philosophers, inventors, writers, and thinkers that contributed to the creation and success of the United States as a democracy and world power. The United States has a significant collection of Columbus memorabilia, including his desk, papers, and the cross he used to claim the New World for Spain. These are in the Columbus Chapel in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania. In 1971 Columbus Day became a federal holiday in all 50 states after Congress passed a law declaring the second Monday in October Columbus Day. Columbus Day commemorates the arrival on these shores of more than 5 million Italians a century ago. Today, their children and grandchildren constitute the nation s fifth largest ethnic group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Columbus Day is the only day on which the nation recognizes the heritage of an estimated 26 million Italian Americans.

3 1 Arguments AGAINST the Celebration of Columbus Day Christopher Columbus did not discover America or the New World. Millions of indigenous people lived in that hemisphere when Columbus arrived. The ancestors of these people arrived in the New World over 1,300 years ago. Columbus began Spanish colonization in the New World. Spain s presence resulted in the forced conversion of Native Americans they encountered. Native Americans were converted against their will through violence while those that refused to convert were often conquered and made slaves or killed. The first people Columbus encountered were the Taino on the Island of Hispaniola. Forty years after Columbus first arrived, between 80% and 90% of Tainos were dead as the result of being overworked, or victims of warfare and disease. We honor Columbus as one of the most famous explorers, but in reality he failed to achieve his goal. His mission was to find an all water route to East Asia. America was discovered by accident. When Columbus arrived on the Island of Hispaniola, he claimed the land for Spain, later claiming more land than he would actually step foot on. This land was already inhabited by thousands of indigenous people. During his first voyage Columbus recognized that, with fifty men they [the native Taínos] can all be subjugated and made to do what is required of them. Celebrating Columbus Day means that we honor a slaveholder. Columbus began the first institutionalized slavery in America. During his second voyage he ordered the native people he encountered to be captured and sold in Spain as slaves. Because of the success of Columbus voyage, hundreds of thousands of slaves were imported from Africa to the New World, and an American economy driven by

4 2 Arguments FOR the Celebration of Columbus Day For many years Italian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, as well as a number of Christian and ethnic groups embrace the holiday as an occasion to celebrate their ethnic and religious heritage. The arrival of Europeans to the New World was bound to happen. Columbus was the first European to make a significant impact on European interaction with the Americas. If he had not arrived, other explorers would have. For that reason it is unfair to blame Columbus for all negative results of European colonization. Columbus did not start slavery; slavery dates back to Ancient Egypt. Columbus instituted slavery as a business undertaking which was seen as acceptable by society at the time and place he lived. In exchange for European goods, food native to the New World made its way to Europe. As a result, there is worldwide reliance on potatoes and corn which provide the only source of food for some of the poorest people around the world today. Columbus expedition resulted in the Columbian Exchange. He brought wheat, melons, grapes, coffee, sugar, cattle, pigs, and chicken. The Spanish horse gave the nomadic peoples of western North America a new and more effective way to hunt buffalo. The United States has long admired Columbus. America has more monuments to Columbus than any other nation in the world. Columbus established the first successful European colonies in the New World. The migration of people to the Americas prevented overpopulation in Europe and provided a better life and opportunities for many. The arrival of millions of people from Europe and eventually the entire world, has led to a multicultural society in the United States today.

5 2 Arguments AGAINST the Celebration of Columbus Day Christopher Columbus was not the first European to reach American soil. Vikings from Iceland and Greenland reached Newfoundland in North America almost 500 years before Columbus set sail. The Columbian exchange he initiated resulted in the spread of ideas, technology, animals, language, religion, and food. It also resulted in the importation of hundreds of thousands of slaves and diseases like small pox that killed thousands of slaves and Native Americans. Although the Taíno people inhabited Hispaniola long before Columbus ever set sail for the New World, Christopher Columbus conquered them and forced them to pay tribute. According to their tribute every adult was forced to pay gold or several pounds of cotton every three months. If the Taíno could not afford it, their hands were cut off. There is a new movement in the country to celebrate alternative holidays on Columbus Day. In South Dakota, the day is officially a state holiday known as "Native American Columbus arrival in the Caribbean and conquest of the Taíno set an example for other European nations to follow. During the next two centuries the Spanish, French, English, and Dutch conquered Native Americans and forcibly removed their land. This resulted in the complete removal of Native American people by the United States in the 19 century. Columbus did not discover America, he invaded it. He forcibly took land and gold, and made slaves of the people he encountered. Before he became an explorer for Spain, Christopher Columbus transported African slaves to Portugal. Many Italian-Americans use Columbus Day as an opportunity to celebrate their heritage, but there are no other federal holidays that celebrate ethnic, religious, social or cultural groups.

6 Lesson Plan Instructions Allow up to two 50 minute class periods to complete the lesson. The Hook-10 minutes To engage students in the issue students will listen to a podcast explaining a brief history of Columbus and the controversy surrounding his voyages. Students will then read background information which presents a historical context for the holiday and controversy. Students will be organized into groups of four. They will further be broken down into pairs. Pairs will work together to formulate arguments and present their positions. This would be a good opportunity to go over the proper etiquette when discussing a controversial issue. Round One- 20 minutes Groups will all receive handouts that present opposing positions on the controversial issue. Half the group will read a position for celebrating Columbus Day, and the other half will receive a position that opposes the celebration. Explain to each group that they will have 7 minutes to read their argument sheet. Afterwards they will have 5 minutes to work with their partner and rank the top three or four arguments they want to propose to the other pair in the group. To help organize their notes, they will rank their arguments on the provided student handout titled either Round 1 FOR or Round 1 AGAINST After they have prepared their argument, the for celebration pair will have three minutes to present. The other pair will then have a one minute clarification session to ask questions about the other group. Afterward they will switch roles. The against celebration pair will have three minutes to present, followed by another one minute clarification session. Round Two- 20 minutes Round one will be repeated except this time student pairs will swap positions. Pairs will receive new positions sheets with different arguments. Pairs that were for celebration of Columbus Day will now argue against the celebration while those that opposed the celebration will now present a position that supports the celebration. Group Discussion-10 minutes After each pair has had a chance to present both positions on the issue, the group will participate in a discussion. In this discussion students will attempt to reach a consensus. Groups will have 5 minutes to talk amongst themselves about the strongest arguments for each position and try to come up with an answer to the question, should we celebrate Columbus Day? After groups have worked towards consensus, the teacher will lead a 5 minute class discussion. Groups will share their positions and debrief.

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