By: Jada Gordon
Graphic: Katie Herchenroeder
October 12 was the day chosen to celebrate Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas in 1492.
In textbooks, it’s depicted as Columbus discovering America and a peaceful meeting of two cultures coexisting in harmony. The three ships that facilitated this journey are the Nina, the Pinta, and Santa Maria. American elementary school history education was flooded with this perspective of the discovery of the Americas.
However, as time has gone on and perspectives have evolved, society has learned a different depiction of history. Christopher Columbus opened up a Pandora’s box of some sort. He single-handedly began the on-going period of Spanish colonization throughout The New World in four voyages. The aftermath of colonialism is still felt to this day. To some, Columbus Day is a celebration of their heritage. However, to a growing number of people, Columbus Day is a celebration of colonization that has killed and broken many indigenous cultures.
It seems as if the celebration of heritage for one group should not be a celebration of blatant murder and exploitation for another culture. Given the problematic nature of the celebration of Columbus, states across America are replacing Columbus Day with other alternate holidays. However, the question remains: “How should this day in history be celebrated, if at all?”
Columbus’ voyages to the Americas have affected indigenous cultures, the descendants of indigenous cultures, and generations to this present day. This information is not new and has been tolerated for many years. Young activists and others are now declaring that education on this topic has been a complete falsehood that is being reclaimed and told truthfully.
It’s taken the voices of many people through the platforms of social media to act on Columbus Day and what it means to people whose ancestors have been brutalized by Columbus. These actions culminated in the movement of Columbus Day being replaced with alternate holidays and certain statues, namely historical figures that had a history of oppressing communities of color, being replaced or reconsidered.
Most of the figures the public called to be taken down were prominent Confederate leaders or soldiers- commanders and conquerors that built The United States off the blood, sweat, and tears of people of color. The marches cries and protests of people tired of racists historical figures being praised for the exploitations of indigenous cultures and other people of color invigorated the radical shift of how individuals look at the celebration of Columbus Day.
Just this past week, Cincinnati became the 55th city to replace Columbus day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Along with cities such as Los Angeles, Seattle, Ithaca, other local governments have joined this movement.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes the Native Americans, who were the original inhabitants of what would become the United States of America. Native American activists have rallied for abolishing Columbus Day for decades, even when it became a federal holiday in 1957. Berkeley, California became the first city to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day altogether in 1994 after the United Nations had declared August 9th as International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.
The only full states who celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day are Michigan, Vermont, Alaska, and South Dakota. One can wonder why the rest of the country hasn’t considered making this change?