Recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day
The second Monday of October is federally recognized as Columbus Day. Marked a national holiday in 1937, the day is set to commemorate Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the Americas in the 15th Century. However, this ‘holiday’ has become the center of controversy in recent decades, asking individuals to question what really happened when Columbus ‘discovered’ America.
Columbus was an Italian explorer who set sail in 1492 determined to find a direct water route to Asia. Instead, he accidentally stumbled upon the Americas and was credited with ‘discovering’ the New World, which was already known and inhabited by hundreds of tribes. His voyages led to the eventual conquest and colonization of the Americas and brought displacement and suffering to many tribes, including enslavement, disease and the death of millions of Indigenous people.
For generations, U.S. history text books have revered Columbus as a hero. However, this is insensitive to those whose ancestors were here long before Columbus arrived, and for many Native people, this ‘holiday’ serves as a reminder of the loss and genocide he brought with him. To celebrate this seems to dismiss thousands of years of culture, history, thriving societies and contributions that originated solely with the Indigenous peoples on these shores, pre-Columbus.
Dozens of individual cities and states across the country have done away with Columbus Day, instead reclaiming the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day. This newly recognized holiday celebrates the contributions, customs and traditions of Native Americans, reminding us they were here long before Columbus and the settlers they showed how to survive in the ‘New World.’