October 10, 2014

Indigenous People’s Day?

LPLP Staff

In a unanimous decision, Seattle has opted to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day in place of Columbus Day this coming Monday (October 13th). The city will join Minneapolis, which voted in April, in their revamped recognition of North America’s roots.

As it stands, several states do not recognize Columbus Day at all. Hawaii recognizes the day as Discovery Day.

In South Dakota, the state started calling the holiday Native American Day in 1989.

The movement to either change or dispense with the holiday altogether has begun with indigenous populations in the United States. Native Americans have long viewed Columbus Day as a disrespectful reminder of the genocidal policies of European colonizers.

While evidence of mass genocide, sexual enslavement, and general racism certainly lends credence to the movement to change the holiday, the vilification of Columbus as a historical figure has given some pause.

Many Americans remains unsettled by the idea of completely reconstructing his holiday.

Jerry Newcombe of the Christian Post describes Christopher Columbus as being, “reviled by the politically correct elites in our culture” while Italian-Americans mourn over possible denouncement of the symbol of the explorer. The question stands- can any religious or cultural sentiment override immoral realities behind Columbus’s legacy?

Indigenous peoples across the country retort with a resounding “no” as they demand increased representation in the celebration of early America. While Christopher Columbus did, of course, sail the ocean blue back in 1492, he was not met by a vast expanse of empty earth.

Rather, his ships were received by Native tribes with abundant traditions and complex cultures who called the land home long before the age of European exploration. If anything, Columbus can be credited with solidifying European awareness of the Americas. However, any holiday that recognizes North American history should undoubtedly acknowledge both sides of its “discovery”.

As we approach the federal holiday, it is vital to consider your personal relationship with the Columbus Day tradition. Do you view the holiday as a celebration of our country’s symbolic beginnings or a literal remembrance of Columbus as a revolutionary individual? Should indigenous Americans be honored separately from this figure or represented beside him? We are interested to hear the value you place on the second Monday of October and how you believe it should be celebrated.