Why are we celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day rather than Columbus Day?
The city council of Berkeley, CA voted to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1992. Since 2014, other local governments have either renamed or cancelled the holiday. Missoula’s city council voted to rename Columbus Day in the fall of 2015, and Indigenous Peoples’ Day was first celebrated in our town in October 2016.
Columbus Day became a national holiday in 1937 – four and a half centuries after its namesake first arrived in the New World in 1492. Many Italian-Americans have been observing this holiday as a celebration of their heritage.
However, since the 1990s many have begun to question the universal celebration of Columbus Day. Historically speaking, Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas marked the beginning of a long line of genocide and brutal injustices against Indigenous Peoples in the colonies, and also later on in the United States.
Additionally, celebrating Columbus Day as a day of “discovery” totally disregards the fact that Native Americans had lived and thrived in North America long before the arrival of European explorers.
Recognizing this holiday as Indigenous Peoples’ Day won’t alone heal the historical trauma caused by loss of life, land, language and culture, but it will hopefully prompt the community to commemorate those who came before Columbus.
More than a mere name change, it’s the first step
toward a much bigger cultural change.
We at PHC want to be a part of this movement.
When we read the history books given to children in the United States, it all starts with heroic adventure – there is no bloodshed – and Columbus Day is a celebration…To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to deemphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves, unwittingly, to justify what was done.
– Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States
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