By: Porscha Outlaw and Karen Plascencia
Columbus Day was first celebrated in the early 1800s, but was not officially a holiday until 1937. This is a day established to celebrate Christopher Columbus settling in the Americas, allowing the progression of The United States of America. However, this has become a controversial topic, whether to keep it as Columbus Day or change it to Indigenous People’s Day. In Los Angeles they have taken the initiative to change the name of this holiday, despite the amount of criticism of this decision.
So the question now is it Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day?
Many, like Italian-Americans, argue to keep Columbus Day, considering that this was a major event in history. Along with offending over 15 million people, recognizing Columbus day also questions the importance and bravery to venture out and explore new lands. This highly celebrated holiday brings up the matter of remembering the beginning of what we have today, instead of covering up the past to benefit what others believe is the American Dream. Eleventh grade history teacher Mr. Sandoval said, “I do think history matters and we do need to remember what people did, positive or negative.” Basically despite all the consequences of Columbus coming to America, so much was built off his settlement, it affected everyone, even those who did not live in America.
Virtually, this means that by disregarding Columbus’ great explorations and discovery of the Americas, you are telling Italians, that the person you admire is no one in the eyes of America. It pushes the idea onto Italians that Columbus only destroyed the lives of millions of people, despite how far America has evolved. It puts all the blame on Columbus despite him not being the only one to settle in America.
However, even with these ideals, Columbus Day is also celebrating the arrival of various settlers that brought on the pain and suffering of several different civilizations who were already residing in the Americas at the time.
People tend to praise Columbus, and forget what he did when he arrived to the Americas. Upon his arrival he kidnapped the Native Americans and sold them into slavery. Columbus would reward his men with Native women and would also force them into providing the settlers with goods such as gold. If goods were not provided the Natives would be faced with disfigurements, such as the chopping of an ear.
Columbus is worshipped for his discovery of the Americas, however one cannot discover a continent that was already populated by millions. Scientific research has also proven that vikings had visited the Americas many times before. Columbus only stumbled upon America after his failed voyage to India.
Many people now refuse to celebrate Columbus Day and have begun to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day. This day is meant to commemorate Native American’s history and culture. It is a replacement of Columbus Day, a day they describe as cruel and an inaccurate depiction of history.
When asked about his thoughts on Indigenous Day, U.S. History teacher Mr.Sandoval stated, “I like it. I like the idea that we can celebrate a holiday that does not have to do with the death and destruction of people. Indigenous People’s Day is just remembering the people that got left behind, the people who got killed, the people who were destroyed with Columbus’ arrival.”
Many students agree with the removal of Columbus Day. Students such as Edna Fuentes and Luis Andrade believe that Indigenous day is something that helps people embrace their culture and celebrate their roots.
All in all, it seems that both sides of this debate have an argument that serve to make people think, Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day? How does someone decide between solving the oppression that is represented on one side, by giving in to the oppression of another side? How do you choose who is right and who is wrong?
Having Columbus Day means acknowledging where this country came from, how this country has evolved, the bravery of all these people who sailed and inhabited here. But on the other hand you have the destruction of million, if not more, people, who were ripped from their natural right, and the introduction of malicious ideals, such as slavery, deforestation, and more.
Turning this decision to the other half, you have Indigenous People’s Day where you can say ‘All these people were hurt and something needs to be done about this.’ You can also bring up that ‘All these Native Americans were right in the way they treated the land, but the colonization of the Americas ruined that.’ Unfortunately, this goes back to oppressing those who take pride in the fact that, Columbus, who is Italian, also represents some Italian Heritage, and they have the right to be known by everyone. This also disregard who else came here, it disregard the advancement of the nation, and much more.
So, what should it be, Columbus Day, or Indigenous People’s Day?