Columbus Day: Celebrating Triumphs of Immigrants or Colonization of Native Americans

U.S.A. flag.Editorial

U.S.A. flag.

Many Americans celebrate the second Monday of October as Columbus Day, a day where many can appreciate their Italian heritage and remember Christopher Columbus’s voyage in 1492. However, lately, an increasing number of cities, universities, and even states are rejecting Columbus Day and replacing it with Indigenous Peoples Day- or Native American Day.

Columbus Day

The earliest recorded observance of Columbus Day dates back to 1792 in New York- today, New York still celebrates Columbus Day with a parade (this will be their 75th) on the second Monday The event celebrates the “spirit of exploration, the struggles, and triumphs of immigrants who helped build the United States, and the vibrant heritage and cultural wealth of the Italian-American community,” according to the non-profit Columbus Citizens Foundation website. [1]

However, not everyone thinks Columbus Day is a day that celebrates “exploration” or “triumphs of immigrants.” Eight states, ten universities, and over 130 cities spread across 34 states all observe Indigenous Peoples Day instead of the typical Columbus Day. Indigenous Peoples Day first started at an international conference on discrimination which was sponsored by the United Nations in 1977. [2]

Shortly after that conference, in 1992, Berkley, California, announced that the second Monday of October was a “Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People” and promoted Native American culture on that day.

In 2014 the Indigenous Peoples Day took off as large cities such as Seattle and Minneapolis took on resolutions which recognized the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day, replacing Columbus Day.

Erasing History

Anthony Tamez-Pochel, the organizer of changing the name of Columbus Day in Chicago, has said that Indigenous Peoples Day isn’t about erasing history, claiming that Columbus Day spins false narratives about early immigrants. “For us to celebrate a man who’s done these horrible atrocities against indigenous people, to me, it’s a slap in the face. I understand where the Italian-American community is coming from, it gives them a chance to celebrate their heritage, but at the expense of another’s culture,” Tamez-Pochel said. “It’s wrong to spread false narratives of what actually happened. We have to start telling the truth, even in our schools.” [3]

“This isn’t a way to erase our history or erase what was done because we want to make sure what happened is taught. But the United States has a history of celebrating people that shouldn’t be celebrated. We shouldn’t celebrate people that have committed genocide,” said Tamez-Pochel, who is Cree, Lakota, and black, serves as co-president of the Chi-Nations Youth Council, an organization that supports indigenous youth.

More Holidays

Strangely enough, many states already have a day set apart as a holiday recognizing Native Americans. California and Nevada celebrate Native Americans Day on the fourth Friday of September, and Tennessee has a holiday for American Indian Day on the fourth Monday of September, which only makes one wonder why we need two holidays for Indigenous people.

And although Indigenous Peoples Day seems to be finding traction in America, not everyone is on board, last May a town in New Jersey trashed a proposal to change the holiday [4], and many Italian-American heritage groups oppose the name change, calling it propaganda.

 

 

 


Notes:

  1. ^About Us.” 12 Oct. 2019, www.columbuscitizensfd.org/about-us/welcome.html. (go back↩)
  2. ^Hauck, Grace. “Columbus Day: Celebrating cultural heritage, or the colonization of Native Americans?” USA TODAY, 12 Oct. 2019, www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/10/12/columbus-day-indigenous-peoples-day-why-some-change-name/3932258002. (go back↩)
  3. ^Zacarias, Michelle. “Indigenous youth fight to replace Columbus Day in Chicago.” People’s World, 2 Aug. 2019, www.peoplesworld.org/article/indigenous-youth-fight-to-replace-columbus-day-in-chicago. (go back↩)
  4. ^Grant, Meghan. “Glen Rock votes to keep Columbus Day.” USA TODAY, 9 May. 2019, www.usatoday.com/story/news/bergen/glen-rock/2019/05/08/columbus-day-glen-rock-nj-will-not-replace-holiday-with-indigenous-peoples-day/3651351002. (go back↩)

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