How did a man who never even stepped foot in the United States somehow get an entire holiday dedicated to him finding it?
Take everything you learned about Christopher Columbus and throw it out. It was more than likely sugar-coated, and you were never told the true and horrifying reality of what actually happened to Indigenous populations in the Americas.
This is why it is absolutely essential for Columbus Day to be renamed Indigenous People’s Day, so America will no longer be honoring a man who is responsible for horrendous acts of horror.
Christopher Columbus did sail to the New World in 1492, but it wasn’t the United States that he found – it was various Caribbean Islands, but even there, he was never seen as a savior.
So, why is Columbus painted as an American hero?
In 1828, Irving wrote the first English-language biography of Columbus and filled it with myths, such as the idea of Columbus being the one who discovered America and Columbus being the savior to the Indigenous population.
But why should we change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day? What would this change mean to the native population?
According to Indigenous Peoples Day MA, “Words have meanings” and because we are celebrating Columbus, we are ignoring Indigenous people and how they are being treated in our country.
To us, Columbus Day may be an excuse to have a three-day weekend – but for the Indigenous population, Columbus Day is no holiday. It is a day of mourning for the loss of hundreds of thousands of natives throughout history.
Columbus is responsible for the destruction of the Indies. According to writings by Bartolomé De Las Casas, a Spanish colonist, in just 40 years after Columbus set foot in the Caribbean Islands, more than 12 million people had died through unjust tyranny committed by the Spanish.
More than 30 islands were destroyed and depopulated due to Spanish colonization led by Columbus and his men.
Yet these were not the stories told to students throughout the United States.
Instead, they were told the fairytale version of Columbus’ journey, finding the “New World” and making friends with the native populations on the islands – claims far from the reality of what actually happened.
In 2019, Columbus’ colonization still has negative effects on native populations.
They still struggle greatly with alcoholism and high rates of suicide.
The natives were first introduced to alcohol by the colonists. According to the University of Denver, four of the top 10 causes of death among native populations are attributable to alcohol abuse.
Suicide is another problem often prevalant in native communities, with rates higher than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States, according to Suicide Prevention Resource Center. The suicide rate among native populations continues to increase every single year.
But what can we do as citizens to make this important and necessary change?
We can support the statewide Indigenous People’s Day bill by writing to our legislatures and asking them to support all five bills.
Framingham’s own representative, Jack Lewis, is the lead sponsor for this bill in the Massachusetts Legislature.
In Lewis’ speech at the hearing of the bill, he stated, “I was inspired to file this bill this session by a conversation begun in my own community around this issue.” He thanked the Framingham High School Black Student Union “for bringing this important discussion about Columbus Day to Framingham.”
Later in his speech, he said, “Nostalgia alone is not a reason to ignore facts, and we have an obligation to history and to our children to move beyond the outdated, or at the very least, oversimplified version of history many of us learned in school.”
This bill will replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day in Massachusetts’ General Laws and this will allow for our state to truly recognize and celebrate native communities.
This change will mean Massachusetts will finally reject the idea of celebrating colonization, while also promoting positive Indigenous representation, according to Indigenous Peoples Day MA.
Yet given what this would mean for native peoples, there are still those who claim, even if the change from Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day is made, they would continue to call it Columbus Day.
Here are my questions to them: “How are you able to excuse Columbus’ actions? Are you condoning rape, slavery, and murder?
This change for natives is not just about the words. It is also about the meaning and the history concerning Columbus and what the holiday currently honors.
By making this small change, it will recognize the resilience of the native community.
On this holiday, remember the natives who were stripped of everything, so colonists could selfishly create lives on stolen land.