Why RWU should celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day


Courtesy of Library of Congress

A painting titled “Columbus Taking Possession of the New Country” which was painted in 1893 by L. Prang & Co. Christopher Columbus arrived on American soil in 1492.

As Oct. 11 approaches, the annual Columbus Day debates arise. In the past few years, many college campuses have swapped out Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples’ Day and I hope RWU joins soon. Many people fear that abolishing Columbus Day inherently means erasing our American history. In reality, Columbus had little to no connection to the land we are living on right now. Yes, Columbus’ sail across the ocean may have caused a spike in trans-Atlantic travel and inspired the future settlers of the United States, but Columbus’ voyages also birthed the Columbian Exchange; the centuries of humans being treated like animals in the slave trade all ties back to Columbus. Why does this man deserve to have his name plastered on a parade float?
The most common argument I have encountered in favor of Columbus Day stems from Columbus’ prominence in the Italian American community. As a natural born Italian, Columbus served as a point of pride for Italian Americans when the community was receiving quite a bit of discrimination in the United States. The pitfall of this claim lies within the fact that every action Columbus took, every choice he made, was for Spain. Columbus lived and died for the Spanish crown. However, Columbus should not serve as a hero to any nationality.
Almost everyone knows of the inhumane actions of Columbus, but not enough people in this country are angry enough to abolish the holiday in his honor. Abolishing this holiday is not an attempt to erase history or cover up the past. Children can learn about Columbus through a history textbook, not a day off from school. This country does not need to have an entire day dedicated to idolizing a historical figure to ensure the history is known. Observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes and mourns the tragedies faced by Indigenous tribes that possess a rich history on this land. The Europeans who settled this nation pushed them off their land and out of their homes. Americans need to remember the suffering that occurred so that we may never inflict such pain again. What Americans do not need is a day to remember a man that inflicted such pain himself.