By Brittany Anderson
Web Content Contributor
Every year, Columbus Day is observed on the second Monday of October. It stands to recognize Christopher Columbus and his discovery and exploration of the North, Central and South Americas.
But, as we should all know by now, this story is a bit warped. Not only did he not “discover” these countries (they were already full of indigenous people), his explorations ultimately inspired centuries of devastating exploitation of Native people and their land.
So…why is Columbus Day still a thing?
Per President Roosevelt, it became an official national holiday in 1937. But since its inception, this “holiday” has sparked many debates across the country and has seen outrage from Natives and non-natives who feel that this day is nothing more than blatant erasure of Native Americans and the struggles they faced as a result of colonialism.
Plus, as we’ve grown to realize, the reality of Columbus and his expeditions are all too often glossed over in our history books.
There’s the argument that Native populations were participating in cannibalism, slavery, human sacrifice and other forms of torture long before Columbus or any other colonists reached them. While this might be true, it doesn’t change the fact that colonists used their wealth and positions of power to brutally pillage their way through these populations.
Sure, in hindsight, their actions essentially led to the creation of the United States— but at what cost, when it set a dangerous precedent and prompted consequences that Native people are still reaping to this day?
Luckily, in the midst of all the controversy and deep-rooted issues, there’s an alternative holiday you can recognize in place of this outdated one. Indingenous Peoples’ Day was first initiated in October 1992 and is held annually on the same day as Columbus Day (this year, it’s Oct. 14).
It’s a way to join in solidarity with American indigenous populations instead of celebrating under the false pretenses of Columbus’ heroism. Many cities and states have even begun ditching Columbus Day in favor of this day instead, including Hays county.
You might ask yourself why we— our communities, our country— tend to hold on so tightly to traditions that no longer serve us a useful purpose. You also might ask yourself why Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a big deal. After all, it’s just a day.
Simply being more aware of the message Columbus Day has is the easiest way to encourage others (and yourself) to look past the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset when it comes to this holiday, and consider just how important it is to know our history as Americans.
Really, Columbus Day’s only saving grace is that saying from elementary school: “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492.” Consider Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a beautiful way to honor the Natives that came before us in a land we love so much.
And, if all else fails, at least we have Wednesday Addams to explain it to us.
Featured image by Andrew James via Unsplash.