Recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day

The controversy around Columbus Day has come to light in the past few years, and people are starting to question why we celebrate it at all. Originally, the holiday was meant to recognize the achievements of Christopher Columbus in his “discovery” of the Americas. Columbus intended to discover a new trade route to the eastern countries but inadvertently found the Caribbean, and after later expeditions, South America. Let’s elaborate on why this might be controversial.

While not the first to come upon it, Columbus was credited with the discovery of western land, and with that, the indigenous peoples of that land. His treatment in first contact with indigenous peoples was less than honorable. Some of Columbus’ own journals unveil how he saw these people as little more than animals and he documented how Europeans could easily convert them into a workforce, among other roles. He treated the indigenous people with deceit, abuse, and most of all, a lack of basic human courtesy. More recently, scholars have been more forthcoming about the realities of Columbus’ relationship with indigenous people, prompting people to ask, “Why are we celebrating this person?”

In many cases, the answer is unclear. However, it has given rise to alternative celebrations in respect to the western cultures that were deeply impacted by Columbus. This includes Native Americans Day, Indigenous Peoples Day and Día De La Raza, all celebrated the second Monday in October as an alternative to Columbus Day. Notably enough, the states or countries that have enacted these alternate holidays are those with sizeable indigenous populations that continue to face social injustices today.

Columbus Day reminds us that there are two sides to every story, and that without understanding how something affects all parties involved, recognition can be easily misgiven. The transition away from Columbus Day comes from an understanding that while he is credited with ‘discovering’ the Americas, he was not the first to discover or inhabit these lands, nor should he be celebrated for the inhumane actions he took following his ‘discovery.’

Accepting that Columbus performed horrible actions toward others and not the history taught in school has led to a shift in how we ‘celebrate’ this day by instead recognizing the survivors of his actions. Hopefully, the transition away from Columbus Day can bring more cultures together as we shouldn’t be afraid to recognize mistakes and learn from our past. By recognizing those mistakes, we can work toward fostering a more caring and inclusive future.

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