Columbus day is a holiday celebrated in many countries that commemorates the anniversary of the Spanish arrival to the Americas on the 12th October 1492. Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer who was sailing across the Atlantic on behalf of Spain in order to find a faster route to what they called “The far east” or how we know it nowadays, India. Instead, he ran into unknown territory, the United States.
This holiday is celebrated across many countries but mainly in the US, Spain and some areas in South America. It was first celebrated in the States in 1792; many Italian-American see it as a way to celebrate and honor their heritage.
But… what is it that's really celebrated?
Opposition to Columbus Day isn’t recent, it first started by extreme protestant related religious groups, such as the KKK and Women of the KKK, who feared this day would only help increase the number of catholics in the country.
Nowadays, the opposing reasons are largely different as they condemn the actions taken over the years and harm done to Native Americans. This movement was started by Native Americans and joined mostly by left wing parties.
The movement states that Columbus day isn’t something to be celebrated as we wouldn’t only be commemorating the European discovery of the Americas, but also the massacre done to Native Americans. Right after the European colonization, Native American tribes were recognized as semi-independent nations right until 1871, when the Indian Appropriations Act was signed which subjected them to federal law.
The situation for the Native American community hasn’t really improved since. There are currently 574 tribes within the US, most of them forced to live in reservations. As with many Indigenous groups, colonization disowned them from their land and resources throwing them into poverty and marginalization.
Health issues, social discrimination, racism, difficulty getting into the workforce, getting promotions,... are just some of the issues they face as a consequence of the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas in 1492.
Today marks 528 years and Indigenous Americans are still suffering. Why would we celebrate that?
Instead, why not celebrate Indigenous People’s Day?
This holiday celebrates, honors and commemorates Native American people and their cultures. It was first celebrated in 1989 in South Dakota as “Native American Day” and in 1992 in Berkeley, California as the “Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People” and it’s fairly popular today with many Americans choosing to celebrate this instead of celebrating Columbus Day.
There’s a lot to celebrate when admiring different cultures and fighting for social justice, yet so little when it comes to death and massacres.