States rename Columbus Day to recognize the victims of Native American genocide

At least five states push to change Oct.14 to Indigenous People’s Day

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This year, the schools’ fall break did not include one of our nation’s most controversial federal holidays-Columbus Day. October 14th marks the observation of Christopher Columbus’s landing in the Bahamas leading to the eventual colonization of the United States.

Although a seemingly innocent celebration of the explorer with his famous hat, leaders within the Native American community have urged people for years not to forget the heinous acts of violence against their people lead in part by Columbus.

At least five states, including Alaska, Vermont, Maine, New Mexico, and North Carolina passed legislation to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day as of this October in honor of those who lost their lives.

Shannon Speed, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and director of the UCLA American Indian Studies Center stressed the importance of remembering this history in a recent interview with NPR.

“Today we understand that while Columbus was an explorer and is credited with being one of the first Europeans to arrive in the Americas, we now know a great deal about the history and the way that he and his people behaved when they came to this continent which included pillaging, raping and generally setting in motion a genocide of the people who were already there,” said Shannon.

While nobody wants to celebrate genocide, some Italian Americans find the holiday name change to be a point of contention. Despite sailing under the Spanish dollar, Columbus was in fact Italian. In 2017 a Columbus statue in New York’s Central Park was vandalized causing many Italian Americans to be outraged.

In addition to calling the controversial conquistador a “great explorer, whose courage, skill, and drive for discovery are at the core of the American spirit,” President Trump argued that Columbus Day should be a celebration of Italian heritage.

“While Columbus sailed from the port of Palos under the Spanish flag, he took pride in the fact that he was a citizen of Genoa, Italy. The celebration of Columbus Day is, therefore, an appropriate opportunity to recognize the more than 16 million Americans who claim Italian heritage and to carry forth the legacy of generations of Italian Americans who helped shape our nation,” Trump said.

While Wisconsin celebrates both holidays simultaneously, most students are unconvinced that Columbus Day is an “appropriate opportunity” to celebrate being Italian.

“I think the school should give us a day off without calling it Columbus Day,” said junior Calvin Deutsch. “I don’t think we should be celebrating a murderer though.”

The credibility of the day is also questionable as Columbus didn’t technically discover the U.S.
“I think there’s mixed reviews if he should get credit for discovering America. I think what happened with the genocides was obviously really wrong so I get why people are upset about the holiday,” said junior Mia Melchior.

While New Trier did not have the holiday off due to scheduling , Principle Denise Dubravek stressed the importance of not sanitizing history.

“The history of Europeans colonizing the Americas is incomplete without understanding the displacement and oppression of the indigenous people who already lived in the Americas,” said Dubravek.

A statement made by New Mexico representative Derrick J. Lente (D) seemed to sum up the sentiment of the majority of legislators and Native People alike. “The shift to Indigenous Peoples’ Day sends a strong message to the descendants of the people who once were sought to be extinguished that there’s a renewed appreciation for their resiliency and contribution to our great state.”

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