Which day do you celebrate?

The Italian explorer Christopher Columbus believed he’d reached East Asia when he sighted Cuba and thought it was China. When the expedition landed on Hispaniola, he thought he’d found Japan.

Columbus’s discovery introduced Europeans to the New World, which led to cultural exchange, commerce, and exploration, and eventually to the discovery of the real westward route to the Indies.

His accomplishment has been celebrated as Columbus Day since the 18th century and became a U.S. federal holiday in 1937.

But Columbus Day and the man who inspired it also generated controversy.

Many argue that Europeans got land, slaves, and gold, while the natives were dispossessed, enslaved, and infected the indigenous people in the lands they claimed.

Protests of Columbus Day celebrations resulted in the creation of Indigenous People’s Day in the 1990s, but that did not solve the controversy. Only twenty states have adopted the new Indigenous People’s Day as a holiday. The other states ignore the designation and have various other celebrations on the day.

Italian Americans honor their heritage, not Christopher Columbus. Various Oklahoma tribal governments designate the day as Native American Day, naming it after their tribe.

Whatever you choose to call the day or celebrate, I will always think about the three ships Columbus sailed, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María, and remember the jingle I learned in school.

Christopher Columbus sailed in the ocean blue in 1492.

Turns out the jingle comes from a poem by Winifred Sackville Stoner, who was known for poems, rhymes, and mnemonic jingles to aid in the recollection of information.

The poem “The History of The U.S.” is found in Yankee Doodles: A Book of American Verse, edited by Ted Malone and published in 1943 by Whittlesey House (NY and London). You can read the entire poem here. It’s quite long and covers American history through WWI.

Today, I’m celebrating that my teachers never made me recite Stoner’s entire poem.