Your Time is Up, Christopher



Graphic by Viviana Munoz

Rebecca Lim, News Editor

   The infamous name Christopher Columbus invokes feelings of dread in many Natives, whose ancestors called the Americas home for thousands of years before European colonists arrived, bringing disease, violence, and death with them. 

   Besides failing to achieve his original goal of finding an alternative route to Asia, Columbus is responsible for the deaths of millions of indigenous people and has been credited and celebrated for hundreds of years for something he simply did not do: discovering America. 

   Even for those who choose to celebrate Columbus Day, its complicated history is worth examining. First recognized in 1892 by President Benjamin Harrison as a way to appreciate the contributions of Italian-Americans during a time of anti-Italian sentiments in America, it became a federal holiday during President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration in 1934 (NPR). 

   Today, the holiday has evolved from a day of celebration to a day of controversy– and rightfully so.

   Centuries of being suppressed physically, socially, and historically have led to understandable anger in Native communities regarding Columbus, his legacy, and the holiday that bears his name. The idea of replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day was first proposed at a United Nations conference for anti-Indigenous discrimination in 1977, and has since evolved into a much larger controversy, especially after global interest in social justice movements skyrocketed following the BLM movement in 2020. 

   Personally, I see it fit to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. It’s been hundreds of years since Columbus’ bloody, but celebrated, legacy started, and it’s time to put an end to it.

   The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis, as well as the discovery of graves under Canadian residential schools have also helped to bring Indigenous struggles to the forefront of debate surrounding cultural issues in America.

   In a time where historical accuracy is possible–and arguably, necessary–we need to recognize the struggles and contributions of Native communities, as well as the inaccuracies surrounding Christopher Columbus.

   Indigenous people have culturally enriched our nation with their values and customs, and took care of our land for centuries before being forced off of it. Columbus, a man who never set foot in the land that today constitutes the United States, has no business being celebrated as an “explorer”, “pioneer”, or “discoverer”. 

   Instead, “We need an Indigenous Day to remind us at home, at school, at work, at community events — that America’s First People are here now, just as you are”, says Pennsylvania Lenape Carla Messinger. 

   Many people argue that Columbus Day is actually a celebration of Italian-American heritage and the community’s contributions to the United States. While this community’s contributions are also incomparable, and worthy of recognition, using a genocidal, failed explorer to celebrate them isn’t quite a compliment. There are so many other influential Italian and Italian-American figures who could be celebrated, such as iconic singer Frank Sinatra, and ingenious figures like Galileo, Michelangelo, and Vivaldi. 

   Instead of celebrating a violent legacy, and reopening the wound inflicted on Native communities by Columbus and his legacy, we should make efforts to celebrate and recognize both the native and Italian-American communities. By replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, we can allow Natives to take back control of the narrative, and educate the world on the truth of their celebration-deserving contributions. Additionally, Italian American Heritage Day could take place any time throughout the entire month of October, which is Italian American Heritage Month. 

   Recently, President Joe Biden made history by signing a proclamation declaring October 8, 2021 as Indigenous Peoples Day. However, he also made a proclamation on the same day recognizing Columbus Day, which thankfully included recognition of the damage Columbus and his legacy have caused (Washington Post). 

   There’s a way to celebrate the contributions of Italians and Italian-Americans without supporting a man responsible for the enslavement and abuse of millions of natives, and it’s high time that we designate the second Monday of October as a day to recognize these historically-abused people’s perseverance and contributions to our nation.