Columbus Day is here, and once again it brings along controversy. Named after Christopher Columbus in recognition for his arrival to and "discovery" of America, the day is recognized as a federal holiday in the United States with many schools and government offices being closed. But why is there so much controversy with a holiday that seems pretty straightforward?
The answer comes when we look at the man we attribute the holiday to. Christopher Columbus was by no means a pious man. As historians reported in a CNN article covering Columbus Day, Columbus did not actually discover America because people were already there. On top of this, he spread slavery, violence and disease to the Americas and opened the way for the European slave trade in the New World.
To combat the celebration of this man, an idea came about to focus on the Native Americans who lived in the New World long before Columbus set foot on American soil. The NY Daily News reported on how the Native Nations proposed this idea to the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas in 1977, approximately 40 years ago.
The idea of Indigenous Peoples' Day, as it is called in reference to the Native Americans, has certainly gained traction as many states now celebrate it instead of Columbus Day, though opposition to the change does exist. The biggest question with all of this is how our generation feels about this movement. Erin Chorazyczewski, from Loyola University's class of 2019, said over Facebook,
"It really should be Indigenous Peoples' Day. So much has been taken from them in the creation and maintenance of this country that was originally theirs. They deserve to be celebrated for who they are and for how reverently they treat the land they live on. They deserve so much more recognition than a man who started a genocide against them."
These are certainly powerful words that seem to reflect the attitudes of those who oppose Columbus Day in favor for the celebration of the Native Americans who owned this land before most of our ancestors even knew it existed. Paul Francis, from Niagara University's class of 2019, took a different approach though as he commented, "...instead of stripping a day away from a certain group thus creating more separation and hatred bring the two groups together to celebrate unity."
A common theme is the call for some form of change; whether it be a complete shift away from Columbus or simply adding focus on the Native Americans into the current holiday, many colleges and communities want change.
Support is growing each year, with more and more states and cities ditching Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples' Day. Only time will tell if our children will be home from school for Indigenous Peoples' Day and will be learning about the Native Americans who lived here instead of the man that brought about their decline.
Lead Image Credit: Robbt via Flickr Creative Commons