Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day?

Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples Day?

Leah Klein, Staff Writer

Columbus Day, occurring yearly on Oct. 11, is a national holiday celebrating the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. The day became a federal holiday in 1934 and was founded by Franklin D. Roosevelt; however, recently there have been disputes over whether the holiday should really be celebrated or not. 

Many states, including Hawaii, Alaska, Vermont, South Dakota, New Mexico, Maine, and parts of California, are choosing to not celebrate the holiday, and instead are dubbing it Indigenous People’s Day. This is due to the fact that when Columbus came to the America’s, violence was used to conquer the natives. 

Columbus and other European colonizers greatly damaged their population, killing about 90% of the Indigenous people. This was about 50 million that died as a result of being exposed to new diseases, war, and colonization. Many also argue the case that Columbus did not actually “discover” the Americas because indigenous people inhabited the land long before Columbus set foot on it.

President Joseph Biden recognized the discomfort that lies behind the holiday for some.

“Today, we also acknowledge the painful history of wrongs and atrocities that many European explorers inflicted on Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities. It is a measure of our greatness as a Nation that we do not seek to bury these shameful episodes of our past — that we face them honestly, we bring them to the light, and we do all we can to address them,” wrote President Joe Biden on Columbus Day, 2021. 

Vice President Kamala Harris also talked about the pain inflicted upon Native Americans, and how recognizing this is important. 

Those explorers ushered in a wave of devastation for tribal nations — perpetrating violence, stealing land, and spreading disease. We must not shy away from this shameful past, and we must shed light on it and do everything we can to address the impact of the past on native communities today,” said Vice President Kamala Harris.

Although Columbus Day has a violent past, many people do still want to celebrate the holiday. The holiday is important to Americans with Italian heritage. Those with Italian ancestry choose to view Columbus Day as a celebration of their heritage instead of racial injustice. The holiday also marks the beginning of European exploration in the Americas. 

“The permanent arrival of Europeans to the Americas was a transformative event that undeniably and fundamentally changed the course of human history and set the stage for the development of our great Nation,” said former President Donald Trump in 2017.

Though Columbus Day has been a national holiday for many years, recent awareness of the treatment of the Indigenous People by Columbus and other Europeans has made many reluctant to celebrate the start of European exploration in the Americas. In future years, more states may choose to not celebrate the holiday, and instead celebrate Native Americans and their culture.