Columbus and his men hunted Natives with war-dogs.

8 Myths and Atrocities About Christopher Columbus and Columbus Day

Vincent Schilling

On the second Monday of October each year, Native Americans cringe at the thought of honoring a man who committed atrocities against Indigenous Peoples.

Columbus Day was conceived by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic Fraternal organization, in the 1930s because they wanted a Catholic hero. After President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the day into law as a federal holiday in 1937, the rest has been history.

In an attempt to further thwart the celebration of this “holiday,” we at ICTMN have outlined eight misnomers and bloody, greedy, sexually perverse and horrendous atrocities committed by Columbus and his men.

FULL BIBLIOGRAPHY AND SOURCES  USED FOR THIS ARTICLE HERE - Christopher Columbus's Top Atrocities: The Annotated List 

On the Way—Columbus Stole a Sailor’s Reward

After obtaining funding for his explorations to reach Asia from the seizure and sale of properties from Spanish Jews and Muslims by order of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Columbus headed out to explore a new world with money and ships.

Brimming with the excitement of discovering new land, Columbus offered a reward of 10,000 maravedis or about $540 (a sailor’s yearly salary) for the first person to discover such land. Though another sailor saw the land in October 1492, Columbus retracted the reward he had previously offered because he claimed he had seen a dim light in the west.

Replicas of the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria in the North River, New York. They crossed from Spain to be present at the World's Fair at Chicago. (Andrews, E. Benjamin. History of the United States, volume V. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. 1912/Wikimedia)

Columbus Never Landed on American Soil—Not in 1492, Not Ever

We’re not talking about the Leif Ericson Viking explorer story.  We mean Columbus didn’t land on the higher 48—ever. Columbus quite literally landed in what is now known as the Bahamas and later Hispaniola, present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Upon arrival, Columbus and his expedition of weapon laden Spaniards met the Arawaks, Tainos and Lucayans—all friendly, according to Columbus’ writings. Soon after arriving, Columbus wrecked the Santa Maria and the Arawaks worked for hours to save the crew and cargo.

Impressed with the friendliness of the native people, Columbus seized control of the land in the name of Spain. He also helped himself to some locals. In his journal he wrote:

“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.”

RELATED: American History Myths Debunked: Columbus Discovered America

The four voyages of Columbus are shown here. (Wikimedia Commons)

Columbus Painted a Horrible Picture of Peaceful Natives

When Columbus first saw the Native Arawaks that came to greet him and his crew he spoke with a peaceful and admiring tone.

“They ... brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things... They willingly traded everything they owned...  They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features.... They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane... . They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

After several months in the Caribbean, on January 13, 1493 two Natives were murdered during trading. Columbus, who had otherwise described the Natives as gentle people wrote “(they are) evil and I believe they are from the island of Caribe, and that they eat men.” He also described them as “savage cannibals, with dog-like noses that drink the blood of their victims.”

The cannibal story is taught as fact in some of today’s schools.

Columbus’ Men Were Rapists and Murderers

On Columbus’s first trip to the Caribbean, he later returned to Spain and left behind 39 men who went ahead and helped themselves to Native women. Upon his return the men were all dead.With 1,200 more soldiers at his disposal, rape and pillaging became rampant as well as tolerated by Columbus.

This is supported by a reported close friend of Columbus, Michele de Cuneo who wrote the first disturbing account of a relation between himself and a Native female gift given to him by Columbus.

“While I was in the boat I captured a very beautiful Carib woman, whom the said Lord Admiral gave to me, and with whom, having taken her into my cabin, she being naked according to their custom, I conceived desire to take pleasure. I wanted to put my desire into execution but she did not want it and treated me with her finger nails in such a manner that I wished I had never begun. But seeing that (to tell you the end of it all), I took a rope and thrashed her well, for which she raised such unheard of screams that you would not have believed your ears. Finally we came to an agreement in such manner that I can tell you that she seemed to have been brought up in a school of harlots.”

Several accounts of cruelty and murder include Spaniards testing the sharpness of blades on Native people by cutting them in half, beheading them in contests and throwing Natives into vats of boiling soap. There are also accounts of suckling infants being lifted from their mother’s breasts by Spaniards, only to be dashed headfirst into large rocks.

Bartolome De Las Casas, a former slave owner who became Bishop of Chiapas, described these exploits. “Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight as no age can parallel,” he wrote. “My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature that now I tremble as I write.”

Columbus Enslaved the Native People for Gold

Because Columbus reported a plethora of Natives for slaves, rivers of gold and fertile pastures to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, Columbus was given 17 ships and more than 1,200 men on his next expedition. However, Columbus had to deliver. In the next few years, Columbus was desperate to fulfill those promises—hundreds of Native slaves died on their way back to Spain and gold was not as bountiful as expected.

Christopher Columbus presents Native Americans to Queen Isabella.

Columbus forced the Natives to work in gold mines until exhaustion. Those who opposed were beheaded or had their ears cut off.

In the provinces of Cicao all persons over 14 had to supply at least a thimble of gold dust every three months and were given copper necklaces as proof of their compliance. Those who did not fulfill their obligation had their hands cut off, which were tied around their necks while they bled to death—some 10,000 died handless.

In two years’ time, approximately 250,000 Indians on Haiti were dead. Many deaths included mass suicides or intentional poisonings or mothers killing their babies to avoid persecution.

According to Columbus, in a few years before his death, “Gold is the most precious of all commodities; gold constitutes treasure, and he who possesses it has all he needs in the world, as also the means of rescuing souls from purgatory, and restoring them to the enjoyment of paradise.”

Columbus Provided Native Sex Slaves to His Men

In addition to putting the Natives to work as slaves in his gold mines, Columbus also sold sex slaves to his men—some as young as 9. Columbus and his men also raided villages for sex and sport.

In the year 1500, Columbus wrote: “A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand.”

Columbus’ Men Used Native People as Dog Food

In the early years of Columbus’ conquests there were butcher shops throughout the Caribbean where Indian bodies were sold as dog food. There was also a practice known as the montería infernal, the infernal chase, or manhunt, in which Indians were hunted by war-dogs.

These dogs—who also wore armor and had been fed human flesh, were a fierce match for the Indians. Live babies were also fed to these war dogs as sport, sometimes in front of horrified parents.

Columbus Returned to Spain in Shackles—But Was Pardoned

After a multitude of complaints against Columbus about his mismanagement of the island of Hispaniola, a royal commissioner arrested Columbus in 1500 and brought him back to Spain in chains.

Though he was stripped of his governor title, he was pardoned by King Ferdinand, who then subsidized a fourth voyage.

RELATED: Christopher Columbus, The Myths Behind the Man

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Hulda's picture
Submitted by Hulda on
I don't understand the title of this article. I see the atrocities, but what are the 8 myths?

ferdinand's picture
Submitted by ferdinand on
This is all bruatal nature of Spain people. This is real barbarianism and far from Christian values.

ferdinand's picture
Submitted by ferdinand on
This is all bruatal nature of Spain people. This is real barbarianism and far from Christian values.

Lindsey S's picture
Lindsey S
Submitted by Lindsey S on
A colleague of mine pointed out that that the lead photo in this article is actually a 16th century drawing of "Balboa's Dogs Attacking a Group of Panamanian Sodomites." While Columbus was certainly terrible, and this article does a great job of highlighting some of the atrocities he committed, I think it's also relevant to not that it wasn't just sexual violence and terror directed at women that was used as a tool of genocide, it was all the specific targeting of two-spirit people.

Arturo Valdez-Herrera's picture
Arturo Valdez-H...
Submitted by Arturo Valdez-H... on
Mi abuelo era español nacido en Asturias, pero no por lo que hicieron esos mal nacidos de Cristobal Colon y su pandilla voy a dejar de quererlo como lo amamos toda la familia.

Teresa S. Thiele's picture
Teresa S. Thiele
Submitted by Teresa S. Thiele on
Horrendous!! Wish I never read this, I'll sure think differently of Thanksgiving! :O

Noel Loveys's picture
Noel Loveys
Submitted by Noel Loveys on
some bullshit some truth... getting harder to tell the crap from the pure. Guess it all depends on how you want to look at it.

alyce's picture
Submitted by alyce on
Spain under Queen Isabella always thought those who were not Christians as not "human". Look how many of the citizens got expelled during the Inquistion. Same thing was done to them. Burning at the stake, rape, etc.

zziegfried's picture
Submitted by zziegfried on
Somebody needs to send this to Bob Ballard, today the crew aboard his research vessel the Nautilus were celebrating discovery in Columbus' name. I turned the viewer off when I heard that.

Tim Chavez's picture
Tim Chavez
Submitted by Tim Chavez on
There is a latin american movie and it is call "Tambien La LLuvia" or "Even the Rain". It is excellent.

Roxie Bandish's picture
Roxie Bandish
Submitted by Roxie Bandish on
This is a shame. for all that is true in this statement. Why would anyone want to have this man to have his day of glory. He killed my ppl and raped. He's lyed. NO MY PPL SHOULD HAVE THIS DAY TO LIVE FOR OUR LOST ONES BECAUSE OF THIS MAN.MAKE THIS HAPPY NATIVE AMERICAN DAY, OR INDIGENOUS PEOPLE DAY.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
I will & have not celebrated Columbus in anyway. My dad, always told me his people had their hands removed, cut off because of the way my dads' people gave thanks, prayed, & showed gratitude for the days blessings. I never forgot that & often wondered why this country glorifies Columbus.

hiram's picture
Submitted by hiram on
in the nameof god, believe it or not, and then more than five centuries of catholicism, the fucked us all up!

hiram's picture
Submitted by hiram on
in the nameof god, believe it or not, and then more than five centuries of catholicism, the fucked us all up!

jeff grant's picture
jeff grant
Submitted by jeff grant on
The truth about Columbus should be taught in every school in the country on this day instead of having the holiday.....his only historical acheivement that he should get credit for is that he "discovered" the Americas and then of course europeans emigrated here...

Theresa Ong's picture
Theresa Ong
Submitted by Theresa Ong on
I have long known that Columbus and his men were horrid butchers. I also knew that they were responsible for the eradication of the Arawak Nation. Reading this article, though, has made me sick. As a woman with Seneca and Oneida ancestry, I do not consider Columbus and his men to have been humans. They were nothing but monsters.

mimi's picture
Submitted by mimi on
Lets be honest hear who is really celebrating Columbus day...all this day os a day off from work....and really for is to put the ideals that we have today about other nations and peoples into the hearts pf people who never knew such ideals is rediculous...they didn't think the way we think today anymore than we think like they did back then...and in reality the only reason we think like this is because of knowledge knowledge that they did not possess....who can say for a certainty that if we had been born in his day would have felt any different than he or those ah worked with felt...there was no idea of human rights....slavery was an everyday thing to was a very different world back then...I am not say what ie did was right for I live today and I know better.

Mako's picture
Submitted by Mako on
So Chris was a pig. The Spanish were genocidal monsters- essentially destroying 1 1/2 continents of natives with 300-400 Conquistadors- monsters, bred to be huge, with armor, guns, swords, horses- all never seen by the locals, but primarily it was unconscious biological warfare that annihilated 80-85% of the natives, before war could ever commence. They were walking death- carriers of a dozen totally fatal diseases to the poor resistance-less New Worlders. It's strange to contrast that heritage with the cool, artistic, relaxed, food paradise that it is now.

Dave Kisor's picture
Dave Kisor
Submitted by Dave Kisor on
I celebrate neither this day or thanksgiving. I'd heard of some of this atrocities, but now I know him and his crews for the terrorists they were!

Art Penson's picture
Art Penson
Submitted by Art Penson on
These atrocities, in all likelihood, were commonplace because torture, the rack, burning at the stake, imprisonment without trial and other injustices were rampant in all European countries at the time. Columbus and his men can'r be entirely excused ---they didn't really know any better.