Columbus Day Needs to be Changed to Indigenous People’s Day

Naomi Scully-Bristol, Opinion Editor '21

Rape. Looting. Genocide. That is what Christopher Columbus did to Native Americans. That is what Columbus Day represents because, no matter how much people argue, that is what Christopher Columbus represented. So, instead of celebrating a man who committed mass murder, why not celebrate the rich history and culture of Native Americans?

When Columbus came to North America, he and his men enslaved, raped and murdered native peoples, according to Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.” Nothing about any of those actions should be celebrated with a holiday, yet with Columbus Day, this country is saying that the rape and murder of Indigenous people was perfectly acceptable, even something to be honored.

The celebration of Columbus Day and his positive representation in history is especially painful to Indigenous children, who are forced to go to school and celebrate the person who set the genocide of their people in motion, according to the director of the UCLA American Indian Studies Center. It is part of an ongoing pattern of ignoring Indigenous people in the United States and creates lasting harm in their lives.

Furthermore, Columbus never set foot within the future United States, and he didn’t even “discover” the “new world,” considering that there were already people living there, and the Vikings had been to North America about 400 years earlier. Columbus Day as a United States federal holiday makes no sense.

One of the only reasons to support Columbus Day is because it was originally invented as a way to celebrate Italian Americans, during a time when they faced harsh discrimination. However, there are certainly ways to celebrate Italian Americans and their culture without celebrating the man who started a genocide. 

By contrast, Indigenous Peoples’ Day honors Native American history and culture. European colonizers, and later the United States government, brutalized the people to whom all US land rightfully belongs. Celebrating Indigenous peoples instead of their tormentor is the least that could be done to make amends for this history of mistreatment.

 

77 Woodson students’ opinions on renaming Columbus Day.
“Instead of honoring the man who was so concerned with fame and wealth that he sentenced millions of people to their deaths, we should honor those whose voices were silenced.” -Nikitha Yemisetty, senior.
“We should keep his name on the holiday and use it as a day to educate our society, particularly younger ones, about the dangers of imperialism… When we talk about Columbus we have a tendency to exaggerate his brutality and attribute things done by his underlings to him personally.” -a Woodson student.

 

Only 14 states and DC celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day over Columbus Day, though various cities and townships within other states have adopted it independently. On Oct 9, Virginia governor, Ralph Northam, announced that Virginia would be celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day this year, for the first time.

  “Younger students are taught that Columbus’s discovery was a great thing and that he’s an admirable person,” said junior Eladia DiNicola. “Yes, he did reshape the world, but at the cost of death and almost wiping out an entire culture. If Oct. 12 must be a holiday, it should be renamed to honor Indigenous North Americans.” Many other students agree with DiNicola, feeling that the celebration of Columbus Day glorifies a heinous man.

There are very few reasons to celebrate Columbus Day and so many reasons to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Columbus, for all of his crimes against humanity, must be removed from his place of honor in US history and instead replaced by the stories of Native Americans, who deserve to be honored and appreciated.