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Ron DeSantisPhoto by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

TALLAHASSEE (LifeSiteNews) — Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a stirring defense Monday of Christopher Columbus, the famed Italian explorer who landed in the “New World” that became North America, and who in recent years has become a target of left-wing “social justice” ire.

“Columbus stands a singular figure in Western Civilization,” DeSantis’ proclamation reads, “who exemplified courage, risk-taking, and heroism in the face of enormous odds; as a visionary who saw the possibilities of exploration beyond Europe; and as a founding father who laid the foundation for what would one day become the United States of America, which would commemorate Columbus by naming its federal district after him.”

Left-wing activists argue for renaming Columbus’ October 11 national holiday “Indigenous People’s Day,” in recognition of the native populations they blame European settlers for displacing. In his own Columbus Day proclamation, Democrat President Joe Biden said that for “Native Americans, western exploration ushered in a wave of devastation: violence perpetrated against Native communities, displacement and theft of Tribal homelands, the introduction and spread of disease, and more.”

DeSantis had a different message.

“Columbus continues to be a historical figure who engenders the pride of nearly 17 million Italian Americans, a community whose warmth, generosity, patriotism, and love of family have made those characteristics even greater components of the broader American culture and way of life,” his declaration continued. 

“We must learn from history and continue to discuss Columbus’ contributions, discoveries, and experiences rather than revise history, and acknowledge that individuals who seek to defame Columbus and try to expunge the day from our civic calendar do so as part of a mission to portray the United States and Western history in a negative light as they seek to blame our country and its values for all that is evil in the world, rather than see it as the force for good,” he said.

In 2017, the Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles wrote of a “lost document” discovered in 2006, which anti-Columbus crusaders have cited as the most damning evidence against him, “virtually all [news articles at the time] remain silent on the nature of the document itself”:

The report’s author is none other than Francisco Bobadilla, Christopher Columbus’s chief political rival and the man who successfully usurped power from him in the West Indies. A modern analog would be to say that a document written by Walter Mondale proves Ronald Reagan was a terrible president.

Columbus spent years of his life refuting the document as a vicious libel and turned down as a matter of principle lucrative agreements with the Spanish crown that did not correct for history what he regarded as calumny. This is not to say that Columbus is guiltless in the Spanish treatment of natives. But the Left’s claims of Columbus’s special monstrosity are without foundation. Even Bartolomé de Las Casas, the first resident Bishop of the Americas and most vociferous defender of the indigenous islanders against Spanish slavery and brutality admired Christopher Columbus to the end and expressed as much in his History of the Indies.

Also in 2017, Michael Graham noted at The Federalist that, while condemning Columbus and the settlers that followed him, left-wing activists tend to sanitize the historical record of the indigenous:

According to “Slavery and Native Americans in British North America and the United States: 1600 to 1865,” by Tony Seybert, “Most Native American tribal groups practiced some form of slavery before the European introduction of African slavery into North America.”

“Enslaved warriors sometimes endured mutilation or torture that could end in death as part of a grief ritual for relatives slain in battle. Some Indians cut off one foot of their captives to keep them from running away.”

Things changed when the Europeans arrived, however: “Indians found that British settlers … eagerly purchased or captured Indians to use as forced labor. More and more, Indians began selling war captives to whites.”

DeSantis’ pushback against the left-wing view of American history is only the latest in a string of actions that have many conservatives hoping he will run for president in 2024, from his proactive pursuit of conservative policy goals to his freedom-focused handling of COVID-19.