​Historian discusses the Columbus controversy

By Taylor Viles – 1851 Staff


Over 90 students and faculty members filled Dewitt Hall on Monday afternoon to hear acclaimed historian Michael Oberg discuss the controversially titled, “Indigenous Peoples Day,” Christopher Columbus, and everything else we might want to know about the early settlements of the “New World.”

October has come around again. In the news has been the question of Columbus Day and whether or not the United States should refer to that day as a day of remembrance for Columbus, the man who “discovered” the Americas for the white man, or a day of remembrance for everyone who called this place home before Columbus decided to do whatever he wished with this land and its inhabitants. 

It’s an issue that students aren’t told about in elementary school.  “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”…and then discovered America.  That’s what we’re taught in school. According to Oberg, we aren’t taught about how Columbus actually thought he was landing in a profitable Indian market.  We aren’t taught that soon after he landed in the Americas, he handpicked hundreds of the best men and women and brought them back on a ship to Europe where many perished during the journey. 

These are just two aspects Oberg covered during his lecture. “History can be dark, [and] violent,” said Oberg. “It can be filled with heroism and bravery for sure, but there’s also deceit and evil.” 

Oberg’s hour and 15-minute lecture covered many topics surrounding these issues and for a non-historian, it may have begun to sound bland. For Associate History Professor Dennis Frey, the talk was informative. “It really reminded me of how complex history is and how [it] is tied in with mythology,” said Frey. “We really need to be careful in not perpetuating myths…You have to remain skeptical… Don’t accept anything that’s being fed your way.”  

For two Lasell students, Oberg’s lecture was eye-opening. “The U.S. government needs to realize that Columbus Day is only perpetuating negative aspects of American culture.  Native Americans need to be valued more,” said Gabby Bertoldi, a sophomore early education major. Julia Resener, a sophomore majoring in sociology said, “the American education system needs to improve and realize what they say incorrectly about Native Americans.”

Lasell University brings in many speakers every year to share their knowledge with students.  When asked why he thinks it is important that this happens, Frey said, “you’re getting the most recent scholar and experts…perspective.  [Also], one of the benefits of a college education, should be… [having] expert speakers come in and talk about powerful things. It’s part of being a lifelong learner.”  

Not only did Oberg talk about Columbus, but he also covered history in general.  He has been in the business for over 25 years and has countless awards to his name so you could say that he knows a thing or two about the subject.  For Oberg, he’s always ready to consume more knowledge. “I have a lot to learn. I’m going to be a student of history my entire life.”

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