Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day?

The second Monday of October, currently recognised as the federal holiday, Columbus Day, may be changed to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” as a result of pressure from activists, as well as the current political climate.

Columbus Day has been celebrated, on the second Monday in October, as a federal holiday since 1971, but has been recognised since 1792. It marks the anniversary of Christopher Columbus, a European explorer and navigator, discovering America. However for the past few decades, there has been a tense debate on whether or not Columbus deserves this level of credit. 

As of 2020, over 130 cities and states nationwide have ditched the term Columbus Day in favour of Indigenous People’s Day, with the reason, according to many protest banners and signs, being that Columbus didn’t discover anything and that 1000’s of Natives were already here.

These states include Maine, South Dakota, Hawaii, Vermont, New Mexico and Oregon, with Virginia most recently joining the list.

In an interview with Josephine Burke, a NHS student and keen human rights activist, she proclaimed that the recognition of Columbus discovering America, “invalidates the hundreds of pre-existing Native tribes that had been living in America for centuries.”

Columbus’s popularity has declined with the American people. He is believed to have almost wiped out the Native Americans through mass genocide, taking many thousands of lives and rendering many tribes extinct altogether. Consequently, as of September 2020, thirty-three of his statues have been either toppled by activists or taken down by the government in order to avoid the same fate.

 In an interview with CBS News on September 25th, Jorge Baracutei, chief of the Higuayagua Taino tribe, mentioned how “[the statues] coming down, it’s almost like a weight off my chest because it’s almost like a validation.”

Just a few weeks ago, a group of protesters in Portland, Oregon, pulled down statues of former presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln as a response to their racist comments toward Native Americans. 

A comment made by Roosevelt was released by AP News on October 12th, stating, “I don’t go as far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe 9 out of 10 of them are.”  This sparked protests and tarnished the already unsteady reputation of the former American leaders.

Current President, Donald J Trump, responded to this, deeming it “radical” and saying that those responsible should be “locked up.” Backlash from the president presents a challenge to those who believe that Indigenous People’s Day should become a national holiday seeing as he, the one in charge, is not in favour.

It is currently unclear as to whether “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” will be made a federal holiday or not, especially seeing that there is the upcoming presidential election. However, no matter what the verdict is, there will always be an appreciation for all of American’s history, good and bad, seeing as it culminated in us being such a powerful universal country in today’s society.