Columbus Day should not be celebrated anymore


Jessica GuerrucciManaging Editor

For years, the second Monday in October only held one meaning – Columbus Day. Many people never questioned it, because all they knew about Christopher Columbus was that he was the man who “discovered” America, but there was much more to the story.

Fortunately, the meaning of the day is slowly shifting. Instead of honoring a man who was responsible for the deaths of numerous Native Americans, Indigenous Peoples’ Day honors the people who really discovered America and made it their home first while also raising awareness about the tragedy that happened when the two groups clashed.

In fact, change has already been made. According to Pew Research Center, several states, territories and localities use the second Monday in October for commemorations. Pointedly excluding Christopher Columbus’ name; since 1990, South Dakota has marked the day as Native Americans’ Day.

So what does this shift symbolize?

To me, it looks like people are finally acknowledging history. There is a quote that comes to mind from Winston Churchill in regards to this shift: “History is written by the victors.” I believe Colombus was one of those “victors” who history has painted to be a hero. The opinions of the Native Americans were never heard until now – and still, the day was still largely recognized as Columbus Day.

Now, it is not to say Columbus did not make any contributions. It certainly took bravery to complete four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean, but it is his actions when he arrived that should not be celebrated.

Essentially, Columbus’ arrival led to the genocide of Native Americans. The ideals he brought over led to the death and the taking of land from its rightful owners. Since his arrival, a trend for the treatment of Native Americans began.

Look at Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal policy forcing the relocation of Native Americans from west of the Mississippi River in 1838 and 1839, the effect of which was the devastating journey of the Cherokee people to modern-day Oklahoma, known as the Trail of Tears, which had devastating effects. This poor treatment goes back to the day Columbus set foot in America.

Now, I understand that no human is perfect, and Columbus Day simply celebrates the discovery of the Western World by Europeans and the beginning of its colonization. Had Columbus not came to America, who knows if the world would have turned out the same way? But the reason I favor the shift to Indigenous Peoples’ Day is because it celebrates a culture of people and what makes them unique.

Here at Southern, the day seemed, to me, to be largely ignored by fellow students. Local high schools in Hamden and New Haven get the day off to celebrate in whatever way they choose, but I know I went to school and treated it like any other day. The university did hold an event, though,
called “From Palestine to Turtle Island: Indigenous Peoples’ Resistance,” which was a celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day and markedly not Columbus Day.

I believe it could be a while before it becomes official, but there certainly is a visible shift on campus and beyond towards celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day. All we can do now is stay educated about what really happened when Columbus came to America and take the day to recognize the contributions Native Americans have made to our country and our culture.

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