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  • July 16

Give Credit Where it’s Due: Change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day

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Kara Gillmann, Entertainment Editor

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Give Credit Where it’s Due: Change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The second monday in October has long been recognized as Columbus Day, in recognition of the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus who was responsible for discovering “the New World.” It has been a federal holiday since 1937, but according to npr.com, as of 2015, only about a quarter of states offer a paid day off for employees on Columbus Day. In recent years, Columbus Day has been entrenched in controversy due to the nature of Christopher Columbus’ actions and the fate that befell many native communities after the arrival of European settlers in the Americas. Many Native American tribes were decimated after outbreaks of smallpox and influenza arrived with the settlers. Columbus was also known for his cruel treatment of indigenous peoples, particularly in the Bahamas and Hispaniola where he enforced slavery and torture as forms of punishment.

With a track record like this, there’s no reason we should dedicate a day to Columbus each year to celebrate his actions. His achievements in exploring do not overshadow his atrocious conduct when he encountered native peoples. Columbus may have “discovered” the Americas for the Europeans, but there were already people living there, and Columbus’ treatment of them was shameful.

Instead of honoring an oppressor, America should make a bold step in changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This action has already been taken in many cities such as Phoenix, Denver, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Boulder. South Dakota has celebrated Native American Day on the second Friday of October since the 1990s. These areas have listened to native protestors and rightfully so: without the help of the Native Americans in the seventeenth century, is it unlikely the European settlements on the east coast would have been successful. We need to give credit to the native tribes that helped establish the early American colonies.

While we are not able to change horrific events in the past, we can do our best to remedy them by honoring those affected and condemning the perpetrators. Christopher Columbus was not a hero and does not deserve to be treated as one. The United States should alter the federal holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day in order to recognize the native tribes that are so often overlooked in American history.

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Give Credit Where it’s Due: Change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day