How do you teach Columbus Day?

I’m just curious.  Do you teach Columbus as the evil conqueror who brought disease, death and cultural annihilation to the New World?  Or as the hero and great explorer who discovered the New World and brought civilization to it?  Or something in between?

We studied Columbus a few years ago using predominantly his own journal which was rather interesting.  We looked at him as a man with great ambition, great opportunity and great faith who unfortunately became a wee bit obsessed with gold, corrupting all the potential of his mission.

We are actually studying how horses have affected world history at the moment, and this week we are supposed to be finishing up the Huns.  It would be a good time to begin our look at how horses affected the colonization of the Americas, but that is a bit too much jumping around on the time line for me.  For those interested however, he are some Columbus Day resources for the horse lover.

The Native Americans Columbus encountered feared the horse, making it possible for very few men to intimidate large numbers of natives.  This proved very important to colonization for obvious reasons.  Cortez was later quotes as saying, “Next to God, we owe our victory to our horses.”  Once the Native Americans got hold of horses, however, their cultures were changed profoundly, unsettling some of the “balance of power” between the tribes.  White Americans would later find some of these groups, such as the Sioux and the Apache, mighty warriors who could strike swiftly and fiercely upon their mounts although a few centuries previously their power would have been severely limited.

Some good information about the descendants of some of these first horses:

The Wild Horses of Shackleford Banks

An outline of some of this history (word document)

And the book we will be using when we get there:  After Columbus:  The horse’s return to America

Happy Columbus Day!

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Home School Talk will be canceled today due to the fact that the host has no voice.


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ChezNous
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Thanks for the great resources but this link:

And the book we will be using when we get there: After Columbus: The horse’s return to America

takes us to the same Word document referenced in the preceding line.

ChezNous
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Never mind! I was reading your blog on my Google Reader and now that I’m actually on your blog, I see that the book is pictured and I will search for it on Amazon.

Sorry!

Life On The Planet
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As a p.s. pupil growing up in south Louisiana, Columbus Day was that day that we didn’t take off so that we could have extra time off for Mardi Gras. Needless to say, Columbus who? As a homeschooling parent, I try to present both sides of the story. We talk about Columbus’ courage (sailing off to the “end of the world”), as well as the things that he did that were not as positive. We talk about how this discovery radically altered both the history of Europeans and Native Americans. We also discuss why Native Americans would not necessarily consider… Read more »
Dana Hanley
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Sorry about that, ChezNous. That’s what I get for trying to put an entry together “real quick” while waiting for the oven to preheat.

Luke Holzmann
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“Guns, Germs, and Steel” has an incredible section on domesticable animals and their importance in a nation’s health, wealth and success. …if you’re looking for further reading. I thought it was fascinating. [smile]

~Luke

Rebecca
Guest
I haven’t ever taught Columbus Day specifically; in fact I didn’t even realize it was Columbus Day today until I tried to go to the post office! We covered Columbus along with a whole gaggle of other explorers when we got to that point in history (the Scientist was “sick of explorers” before it was over!) but we spent quite a lot of time on Native American history during the same time period (I wrote post at the time about the resources we used if anyone is looking for info on this topic). So I guess like LOTP I just… Read more »
Dana
Guest

It is an interesting study, Rebecca and one that I am looking forward to returning to in a few years in one form or another when my daughter is old enough to really understand the significance of some of the things we are talking about.

It is like reading about the world’s first arms race as nations rose and fell based on their “horsepower.”

Crimson Wife
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We haven’t gotten to the European explorers yet in our study of history, but when we do, I’m planning to give a “fair and balanced” treatment of the subject. Like many historical figures, Columbus wasn’t all heroic and he wasn’t all evil. We don’t ignore the negative aspects of Western Civilization but we don’t dwell on them either.

Dana
Guest
Very true. Interestingly in the whole discussion of the “Great Explorers,” conquistadors, imperialists, etc., we generally only talk about the imperialism of the European. No culture is wholly good or wholly evil, but lately, we seem to have an increasingly skewed view. It is sort of interesting to read older histories, though. I have a sort of popular history book from the 40’s that is quite interesting reading, but still very much portrays the fights with the Indians as a good vs. evil thing, and counts their disappearance as a good thing for civilization. A bit too far in that… Read more »
Rebecca
Guest
Last night I read online some excerpts from Beaumont and de Toqueville on their encounters with Indians and with the American attitude toward them. It was interesting to see a) how deeply rooted in our history was that attitude of “the disappearance of natives is a good thing for civilization” (de Toqueville observed and wrote about it) b) how shocked and appalled these two French visitors were at American callousness toward the Indians (de Toqueville describes a situation in which no one will help a drunken Indian who is unconscious on the roadside, even when de Toqueville offered to pay… Read more »
Lynn
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For me, it depends on the age of the student. I just got done teaching my 6 year old about Columbus, so I stuck to he was a great explorer that was instrumental in our country becoming a country. When he is older he can hear about both sides, but even then I don’t think it makes any sense in demonizing him since we (in the USA) benefit in his “discovery”.

Jon
Guest
The Columbus dilemma is an interesting one. It’s right up there with some of these: 1) Was King David and adulterous murderer, or a man after God’s own heart? 2) Was the Apostle Peter a traitor or a building block of the Christian Church? 3) Was Sampson a mighty defender of Israel or a man with a weakness for the “love of women?” I find it interesting that the Bible tells the story of men’s failings and their greatness. I was reading the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 once when I noticed how many real failures were included on… Read more »
Renae
Guest
This year to celebrate we read some poetry about Columbus during lunch. We studied Columbus more in depth last year. We discussed things such as his endurance, but also his keeping of two records. (basically lying) We discussed government as it relates to Columbus’ mutinous crew. The men were forced to sail, so they were rebellious and scared. And I’ve heard over and over again, that Columbus didn’t discover America. Is that an attempt to discredit him? I don’t know, but what is significant was that he introduced Europe to the New World. It gave liberty a new place to… Read more »
Renae
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Rebecca,
Thanks for the link! I just got De Toqueville’s Democracy in America, so I’ll add it to my study.

Dana
Guest
Great points, Renae! We talked about that a bit. We were talking about leadership qualities at the time and determined that he was a poor leader. He chose men who didn’t want to come, when he had the chance to let go of some of the trouble makers, he didn’t take it and they damaged the ship and then he lied about the distance they were covering. Things didn’t improve much when they got to the New World. One thing I found interesting in our studies that I hadn’t known before were the reprimands he received from the Crown. I… Read more »
Dana
Guest
And one thing I think to keep in mind when looking at how these later generations viewed the Native American was the sort of “cultural memory” of the French and Indian War. Not that all was peaceful coexistence before it, but there was a more widespread terror after that started. Before that, there were some high points in relationships…and some definite low points. Irrelevant but interesting…I have a distant relative who was murdered in an Indian raid. Their twelve year old son walked to Ohio in hopes the only surviving relative he knew about would take him in. Native Americans… Read more »
Julie
Guest
Dana, what an interesting topic. Actually, I had forgotten that yesterday was Columbus Day until I went to check my mail. I hadn’t really thought much of this day until I started reading about Haiti in preparation for adopting my children. As we study history, I plan on including the history of Haiti and the Island of Hispaniola. I doubt our look at this man’s life will produce many warm fuzzy feelings. I don’t know that my children will be able to see the God of the Bible and the faith of His followers in the “faith” of Columbus. He… Read more »
Dana
Guest
I agree, Julie. 🙂 From what I have read from his journal and other sources, he seemed to start out with intentions which were good enough but by the time he got here, all he was concerned with was gold. That may have been his primary motivation all along, but he didn’t express it so much until he got here and even the Crown seemed to think he took it too far. Slavery and the treatment of natives is always a tough one. That is our history right up until the Civil War, with very devout Christians fighting on either… Read more »