As of this coming Monday, Washington D.C. will now recognize October 14 as Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day under a bill the D.C. council approved on Tuesday. The new legislation recognizes, acknowledges, and celebrates the contributions of Native Americans while challenging the idea that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America.
More and more states and cities are realizing the importance of replacing this holiday and it’s about time. The vote which came during a regular Council meeting won the support of a supermajority of council members. As of now, because the emergency legislation was not subject to a hearing, it will last only for 90 days but a permanent version is pending.
“Columbus Day was officially designed as a federal holiday in 1937 despite the fact that Columbus did not discover North America, despite the fact that millions of people were already living in North America upon his arrival in the Americas, and despite the fact that Columbus never set foot on the shores of the current United States,” David Gross, the at-large council member who authored the legislation, said in a statement. “Columbus enslaved, colonized, mutilated, and massacred thousands of Indigenous People in the Americas. We cannot continue to allow this history to be celebrated as a holiday in the District.”
Columbus Day was first recognized in 1937 when former President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to create a federal holiday honoring Christopher Columbus and his arrival in the Americas in 1492. Italian-American community groups had lobbied for its creation as a holiday since the early 1900s. But the idea behind Columbus Day makes absolutely no sense considering he didn’t discover the Americas at all since the land was already inhabited. He never stepped foot on U.S. soil, and brutally colonized, killed, and abused the indigenous people who were already here.
To celebrate him is not just an insult to the indigenous community but to humanity overall. All these years that we have been celebrating Columbus Day, we have been celebrating and essentially teaching our children to glorify genocide and the rape and murder of all those indigenous people. It’s about time the U.S. finally starts to recognize how problematic having a holiday as this has been all along.
Quite a few other states and cities have recognized the significance of changing this holiday including Wisconsin. The state’s Governor Tony Evers signed an executive order this month declaring the second Monday of October as Indigenous People’s Day. Other cities and states who have opted to recognize October 14 as Indigenous People’s Day are South Dakota, Alaska, Minnesota, and Vermont. In New Mexico, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation recognizing the new holiday and in 2017, Los Angeles City Council voted to eliminate Columbus Day from the city’s calendar replacing it with Indigenous People’s Day.
A new study polled by College Pulse found that 79 percent of 1,500 students polled support replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. And a 2015 Pew Research study found Colombus Day to be one of the most inconsistently celebrated U.S. holidays.
For literal centuries we’ve been teaching kids the most warped version of our actual history. We have spoken to them about Christoper Columbus as if he was the European savior who discovered America versus the cruel colonizer who discriminated and harmed indigenous people in every way imaginable. We’ve embraced and praised colonization and looked at Columbus as someone who helped “civilize” the Americas without considering the millions of Native Americans who were enslaved, killed, or raped by European settlers. Indigenous People’s Day is significant for that reason because it FINALLY recognizes the real history and the real contributions of the original inhabitants of the Americas.
Unfortunately, we can’t change or erase the past but we make it a point to recognize and embrace what the real history actually was. This recognition is long overdue.