Statue of Christopher Columbus

Columbus, Ohio is a city known for its arts, culture, innovation, politics and the Buckeyes. However, Columbus is the largest city of its kind named after 15th Century Italian-Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus, an explorer who was more known for raping and pillaging indigenous people, and being a kingpin for slavery, rather than sailing across the Atlantic.


There are some people in Columbus who are questioning the city being named after the famed explorer who also did these heinous things to the indigenous.


There is a petition circulating around to have the City of Columbus change the city’s name to Arawak. Local activist Charles Robol is leading the charge into getting the city’s name changed. Robol has been out in the community in recent weeks handing out flyers to spread awareness of Arawak City.


“Christopher Columbus genocided, enslaved and child sex trafficked indigenous Arawak peoples,” is the first sentence on the Arawak City flyers that Robol circulated. The Arawaks were a tribe of indigenous people who lived in the Caribbean and South America, and they were victims of genocide and slavery by Columbus in the 1490s. This would set the tone for both the treatment of Native Americans in the centuries that followed, and the colonial African slave trade that began in 1619.


Robol set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds needed for the name change. The fundraising goal is $1,000 with any donations used to “build community and increase discussion of the continuing caging of human beings for non-violent conduct,” according to the Change the Name’s official GoFundMe Page.


   Columbus and the legacy of the explorer have been a huge part of the city’s tradition from the beginning, back in 1812. Most recently in 1992, when the city had a central role in the Quintennial Celebration of Columbus’s Voyage to the “New World.” According to a 2018 article in the Washington Post, the bill for the 500th Anniversary Celebrations for Columbus was over $95 Million, which included the AmeriFlora ’92 Exhibition, and of course, the Santa Maria finding a home on the Columbus downtown riverfront. The Post article also cited that the transition to Indigenous People’s Day started in 1992 with Berkeley, California being the first city to celebrate that day, rather than to honor Columbus. Other cities followed suit in honoring Indigenous People’s Day, including Cincinnati.


Today, seven states do not celebrate Columbus Day. Florida, Alaska, Vermont, New Mexico and Maine celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, and South Dakota celebrates Native American Day, in place of Columbus Day. Hawaii celebrates Discoverers’ Day, to recognize the Polynesian discoverers of the Hawaiian Islands. Unlike Columbus Day, Discoverers’ Day, according to the Hawaiian state legislature, is not a state holiday.


For over 20 years, the Santa Maria boat was on the banks of the Scioto River in Downtown Columbus, directly across from City Hall. However, the boat was moved due to construction of the Scioto Greenways Project in 2013, and the boat has since been dismantled.


For several years now, there have been people who have wanted at least two of the Christopher Columbus Statues in downtown Columbus to be removed. In 2013, according to WBNS-10TV, the Christopher Columbus statue was defaced with graffiti multiple times over the Columbus Day weekend in protest of the man that Christopher Columbus truly was. 


In 2017, there were demonstrations to have the bronze Christopher Columbus Statue in front of Columbus City Hall be removed. The City Hall statue has been in place since 1955, when it was given to the City of Columbus from Genoa, Italy. Columbus State Community College has had their statue of Columbus on the downtown Columbus campus since 1988. 


There has not been any known controversy on the third downtown Christopher Columbus statue, which has been on the south lawn of the Ohio Statehouse since 1932, given to the State of Ohio from the Pontifical College Josephinum, which was in the process of relocating their campus from present-day Olde Towne East to the outskirts of Worthington.


With calls for change in our society to disassociate this country’s image from Christopher Columbus, some Ohio communities that have stopped recognizing Columbus Day. Oberlin and Cincinnati changed Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. This July Cleveland chose to keep Columbus Day but added Indigenous People’s Day as a new holiday on August 9. The city of Sandusky will stop observing Columbus Day in 2020 and have made Election Day a paid holiday. According to, “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has publicly called for Columbus Day to be eliminated nationally and for Election Day to be made a paid holiday instead.”


Just last year, City of Columbus employees no longer had a Columbus Day holiday, opting to have Veteran’s Day off instead, for financial reasons. The Sunday before the second Monday in October, there is a Columbus Day parade as part of the Columbus Italian Festival. The Festival’s organizers are standing by Columbus Day because it is part of the Italian-American heritage.


With most of the country becoming more politically correct, could the long-standing “tradition” of honoring Christopher Columbus fade into the history books? One can only hope that there is a deep culture of understanding before The Columbus Way becomes The Arawak City Way, where we champion diversity and do not pay homage to the man who was Christopher Columbus.

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