Today is Leif Erikson Day.

Columbus Day is one of the days we traditionally display the United States Flag in the United States.

But today is Leif Erikson Day.

Since we observe Columbus Day, why do we not observe Leif Erikson Day—and display the Flag of the United States that day too?

I’m no fan of Columbus Day, actually—Columbus’ “discovery” of the New World has done a lot more harm than good.

If Columbus had never “discovered” this New World, there would never have been a genocide of Native Americans, and there would never have been a Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

Columbus did not discover America.

The Native Americans (American Indians) discovered America—ten to fifty thousand years before Christopher Columbus “discovered” America.

And the Norse (Vikings) “discovered” America—five hundred years before Christopher Columbus “discovered” America.

Erik the Red is credited with leading the Norse expedition to Greenland—and his son, Leif Eriksson, is credited with leading the Norse expedition to Newfoundland, in what is now Canada.

Though there is some dispute as to whether Leif Eriksson actually led the Norse expedition to Newfoundland, there is no dispute that Norsemen (and women) landed in Newfoundland five hundred years before Columbus, and established a colony there.

The exact date of the Norse’s landing in Newfoundland is not known—but the year is estimated to have been 1000 (not exactly five hundred years before 1492, but close enough).

Whether the Norse ever landed in what is now the United States is disputed.

But what is not disputed is whether Columbus ever landed in what is now the United States.

He did not—Columbus never even landed on the North American mainland.

Why, then, is Columbus credited with “discovering” America (at least in the United States)—instead of Leif Eriksson?

Probably for the same reason that St. Augustine, Florida, is considered America’s First City—instead of Pensacola, Florida.

Pensacola, Florida, was the first European settlement in what is now the United States.

The expedition to Pensacola was led by Tristan de Luna.

Tristan de Luna led an expedition here.

But before the settlers could transfer all of their goods from the ships to the Pensacola settlement, a hurricane destroyed most of their ships—along with their goods.

The settlers were unable to unpack enough of their provisions to sustain their colony here, before that hurricane hit.

This is why St. Augustine, Florida, is considered America’s First City, and Pensacola, Florida, is considered America’s First Place City.

The settlement at St. Augustine was not interrupted, as the settlement at Pensacola was—the Pensacola settlement had to be reestablished after the settlement at St. Augustine was begun.

Personally, I consider the “First Place” in “America’s First Place City” a euphemism for “second place”—and am not too fond of it.

But the fact is that Pensacola, Florida, was the first European settlement in what is now the United States—not St. Augustine, Florida.

Unlike Christopher Columbus, the Norse—presumably led by Leif Eriksson—did land here on the North American mainland, and establish a colony in Newfoundland, in what is now Canada.

But like the initial settlement here at Pensacola—that Newfoundland colony did not last to the present day.

It lasted much longer than the initial Pensacola colony—the settlers weren’t interrupted by a hurricane.

But the Norse settlers eventually abandoned the Newfoundland settlement.

There are many reasons why the Norse settlement at Newfoundland was eventually abandoned.

One of the primary reasons is—ironically—that the settlers were relentlessly harassed, and the settlement was relentlessly sabotaged, by Native Americans.

The Norse called the Native Americans they encountered, in Greenland and on the North American mainland, skraelingjar (skraelings)—“skraeling” is the singular.

This was not a complimentary term—it was connotatively similar to ancient Greeks’ “barbari” (barbarians), or Spanish speakers’ “gringos” (though arguably more disparaging).

To be fair, the “skraelings” almost certainly had some uncomplimentary terms for the Norse, as well.

According to the Norse, the “skraelings” surrounding their colony at Newfoundland gave them hell—all the time.

And if I’m not mistaken, most of the “skraelings” who relentlessly gave the Newfoundland settlers hell were Algonquins.

I’ve always loved this story.

I’ve always felt guilty for loving it—warfare is not supposed to be amusing or inspiring.

But it is my understanding that the “skraelings” here on the North American mainland were the only people—anywhere—who ever defeated the Vikings.

Everywhere else the Vikings landed, they either conquered the people they encountered, or had to be paid off to leave them alone—as was the case with Constantinople.

But here, on the North American mainland, the Vikings (Norse) were defeated instead—by people they called “skraelings” (“skraelingjar”).

To be fair, these Norse were Christianized—my understanding is that Leif Eriksson converted to Christianity.

So they probably weren’t quite as ruthless as their pre-Christian forebears.

But I’m sure they were tough enough to be seen by the “skraelings” as invaders to be relentlessly repelled (as the Israelis are, very rightfully and validly, seen by the Palestinians).

There’s no reason to observe Columbus Day, in the United States.  Columbus did not discover America—he did not even land on the North American mainland.

But if we observe Columbus Day next Monday, it is only fair that we observe Leif Erikson Day today.

Today is Leif Erikson Day.

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