Columbus Day – or Indigenous Peoples’ Day?

  • Published on October 9th, 2017

The celebration of Christopher Columbus Day, the Italian explorer credited with discovering America, has faced a backlash over the years because of his maltreatment of Native American populations. Many in the U.S. are calling for a change.

christopher columbus wanted for genocideBy Joe Difazio
(Displayed with permission from International Business Times)

Dozens of people gathered in Boston on Saturday to call for the end of Columbus Day because of the atrocities that Columbus committed against the people that called America home before Columbus arrived.

“Columbus Day celebrates genocide,” read one sign, according to the Boston Herald, another read “Christopher Columbus was a genocidal slave-trader.”

In Denver, more than 500 people gathered to peacefully protest the lionization of Columbus during an Italian heritage parade.

“Columbus symbolizes the genocide of almost an entire race of people and I think its time people stand up against him,” said Owen McGaff, a Plains Indian to ABC News.

A statue of Columbus was defaced in New York City’s Central Park in September with the words “hate will not be tolerated.”

Many of the protesters call for cities and towns to adopt Indigenous People’s Day. The alternative to Columbus Day celebrates America’s native people and was first adopted in Berkeley, Calif. The movement of switching has gained traction over the years with several large cities adopting the holiday including Los Angeles, Portland, Phoenix, Seattle and Denver. The states of Minnesota, Vermont and Alaska also have made it a statewide celebration.

Columbus Day became a federal holiday in 1937 through President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But while more and more cities are adopting a change to Indigenous People’s day, not everyone likes dumping Columbus. In particular, swaths of Italian-Americans are resistant to the change.

“We had a very difficult time in this country for well over a hundred years,” said Basil Russo, president of the Order Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples' dayItalian Sons and Daughters of America to the Associated Press. “Columbus Day is a day that we’ve chosen to celebrate who we are. And we’re entitled to do that just as they are entitled to celebrate who they are.”

Many people see the holiday as a celebration of Italian heritage as much as a celebration of the explorer.

President Donald Trump in a traditional holiday declaration diverged from former President Barack Obama’s declarations by not mention any of Columbus’ ills.

Obama asked the U.S. to “acknowledge the pain and suffering reflected in the stories of Native Americans who had long resided on this land prior to the arrival of European newcomers.”

Trump made no mention of Native Americans in his declaration.

“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,” read Trump’s statement.

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