By Cassandra Gallegos
Columbus Day is a national holiday created to celebrate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus and his arrival on the American continent. The counter celebration of Columbus Day is Indigenous Peoples Day which is celebrated in various localities in the United States. It is important that we, the citizens of the United States, redefine the meaning of Columbus Day to instead honor the history of the Native American people.
The idea of Indigenous Peoples Day was born in 1977 at a United Nations (UN) convention, but it was not until fourteen years later that the Berkeley City Council declared October 12 to be the Day of Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples. Since then, meaningful action has been taken to appropriate Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day.
According to the Unitarian Universalist Association, Indigenous Peoples Day “reimagines Columbus Day and changes a celebration of colonialism into an opportunity to reveal historical truths about the genocide and oppression of indigenous peoples in the Americas.”
Columbus Day celebrates Christopher Columbus and his crew, whose arrival to the New World triggered ongoing crimes against the native people, which include the murder, rape, and enslavement of the locals. It is unjust to honor the very man who caused Native Americans to face discrimination and genocide.
His crimes against the Natives caused an upheaval within multiple cities and states, such as South Dakota, Phoenix, Arizona, and Seattle, Washington.
“The City of Seattle has a responsibility to oppose the systematic racism towards Indigenous people in the United States,” stated the Seattle City Council in their resolution to adopt Indigenous Peoples Day.
Even though Columbus had a massive impact on the U.S., he is not a person worth celebrating as a hero of our country. Columbus was not the man who discovered America because it the natives were there long before he arrived. In fact, Columbus came here by mistake, as his actual goal was to find a route to India.
Lakota activist Bill Means stated, “We discovered Columbus, lost on our shores, sick, destitute, and wrapped in rags. We nourished him to health, and the rest is history.”
Holidays that celebrate individuals, such as Martin Luther King Jr., are supposed to recognize notable contributions to history. Columbus Day recognizes the opposite.
However, by replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, we can truly celebrate those who discovered the land of the people. It rightfully celebrates the roots of our country and honors all who endured the crimes of Christopher Columbus.