The Maroon

Indigenous Peoples Day Rightfully Replaces Celebration of Columbus

Bryan Sak, News Editor

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We’ve all heard the rhyme before; “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…” The voyage of Christopher Columbus is taught to students at a young age, but it is generally not until later on that students discuss the controversy of his celebration in America. In a time when beliefs of the past are constantly challenged as people establish more progressive and egalitarian ideals, the celebration of Columbus Day should be put behind us.

Most students know the basics behind Columbus’ voyage: he received aid from the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, Isabella and Ferdinand, to complete four voyages. Columbus was originally in search of a new route to the east, but later discovered the New World – the continents known today as North and South America as well as the Caribbean islands, where he and his men first landed by accident . Throughout my time in school, teachers have always been mindful of addressing the negative relationship between these early settlers and the indigenous people of the land, but more often than not this dialogue is sparse and not a topic of focus when covering early European settlement of the Americas.

In the current environment of public education, where teachers are required to cover a long list of topics in an nine month school year, the brief nature of these lessons are unfortunately understandable. It is also clear that the actions committed by Columbus and other European explorers, as well as Native Americans, are too graphic for younger students to learn about and comprehend. However, there comes a time when individuals, whether they be in secondary school or college or even outside of school, should educate themselves about the difficult history between Native Americans and European explorers such as Columbus.

While the discovery of these continents is notable and changed the course of history, it is important to recognize that these gains, which helped to lay the groundwork for English colonization and the founding of the United States, came at a grave cost of human life. The native population was decimated, whether it be through enslavement or genocide, or the rapid spread of diseases such as smallpox, and there is no nobility to that.

Perhaps it is not the atrocities committed by ancestors, explorers of many generations ago, but the pride and importance that we attach to their names in modern times that needs to be evaluated. No one can change the actions that occurred in the past, but we can look towards a more progressive future. While it is a federal holiday, there are a handful of states that have no formal recognition of Columbus Day, such as Vermont, Alaska and Hawaii.

Individual municipalities have also ceased celebration of the holiday. Recently, Austin City Council voted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, meant to bring recognition to Native Americans. Indigenous Peoples Day acknowledges those who were oppressed by Columbus and other European explorers, and celebrates their achievements and survival. A holiday dedicated to those who went through hundreds of years of hardship following European arrival is a fitting replacement for one that champions a man who began it.

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Indigenous Peoples Day Rightfully Replaces Celebration of Columbus