By Jonathan Saenz
Photo courtesy of AP images.
Indigenous Peoples word cloud.
In recent years there’s been controversy about the morality behind one of America’s national holidays, Columbus Day. A number of cities and states have decided to not observe the traditional holiday at all and others have replaced it with alternative names that seem more fitting.
Columbus Day is a misleading name for a holiday that celebrates the discovery of the Americas. This holiday is becoming infamous because it glorifies the name of a man who is responsible for the murder and rape of native people. Columbus Day should be re-named to recognize the impact native people have had on American history.
Why was this holiday named after Christopher Columbus?
College of the Desert History Professor, Oceana Collins said, “The reason we have Columbus Day and why it’s celebrated in the United States is really the result of a lot of lobbying by Italian-Americans.” The Italian-Americans from Knights of Columbus (a catholic based organization) wanted their recognition. Ultimately, they successfully influenced the U.S. government and President Roosevelt designated Columbus Day as a federal holiday in 1937.
Is there a legitimate reason to have a holiday that celebrates the discovery of the Americas named after Columbus? Not really, since the claims of Columbus discovering the New World and a round earth are not entirely true. According to History.com, Vikings were technically the first to discover the New World. Not to mention the natives living in the Americas for years before Columbus arrived. “We learned about Columbus in elementary school, we were told that Columbus was the first European to discover the world was round, well that’s false,” said Professor Collins. “Europeans knew the world was round at that time.” Collins continued.
Supporters of Columbus Day argue that it’s a day to recognize European exploration. Arguing that Columbus paved that way for westward European trade routes and without him, it would be long before someone did. Supporters also defend the fact that we are judging the actions of a 15th century man with 21st century ideals. These are all valid arguments used to stand against the removal and re-naming of Columbus Day.
“A really good way to get that idea out there is to have a day set aside where Indigenous people are recognized. Not just for the brutality of the conquest and their victimization, but also for their contributions to America and American history,” said Professor Collins. Society has come a long way and I think it’s time we pay more respect to the Indigenous peoples who’s history was severely impacted by Columbus’ voyage.