Columbus Day should be Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Ella Yurick, Reporter

Imagine having a National Holiday honoring the person who brought diseases, enslaved, tortured, and is responsible for the deaths of 12 to 15 million people. Although it seems crazily inhumane, all of that information is describing a truth hidden inside our country. The sick feeling that statement brings is what Indigenous people experience every year as America celebrates Christopher Columbus on the second Monday of October; therefore, “Columbus Day” should be changed to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”

In 1492, Chistopher Columbus sailed off to find new land. Unlike the myth most people believe, being that he “discovered America,” he never actually stepped foot on the United States. What he did arrive at were the Caribbean Islands, which he brutally took over from the native people living there.

Loni Hancock, the Mayor of Berkeley during 1992 said in an interview with NPR, “‘We had to think about what is this holiday about and who discovered America and how really profoundly disrespectful it was to say that a European explorer who never actually set foot on the continent did that,’ — ‘Discounting the Indigenous people who had lived here for centuries with very sophisticated cultures and pretty much in harmony with the earth.’” Berkeley, a couple years later, became the first U.S. city to switch to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

Besides the inaccurate credit towards Columbus, his actions of hate towards Indigenous Peoples push towards changing the holiday. As reported by the History Channel, the two main controversies involving Columbus’s interactions with the Indigenous people, which he labeled “Indians”, are “the use of violence and slavery” and “the forced conversion of native peoples to Christianity.”

Bartolomé de las Casas, a boy who witnessed the mistreatment during Columbus’s time there and the aftermath, claims that over 12 million Indigenous people were slaughtered. Columbus’s loathful crimes not only affected the Native people during that time period, but created oppression and hate that lasts still today. 

Lael Echo-Hawk, a D.C. Native lawyer with Pawnee roots, likes that many communities are now celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day. She told WUSA9 News that she likes the change because, “it puts our issues at the forefront of the American thought process for a day, even if it’s just a day, because too often we’re not.” There needs to be more light shed on Indigenous people, especially the mass genocide they faced during the development of our country since it is a large portion of American History. Changing “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” will do just that.

A great way to help is to further educate yourself about what happened to those Indigenous people. Bartolomé de las Casas has a book that recalls some of the crimes he witnessed. You can also bring attention to the problem by educating your community about the change, and by contacting your representatives to push towards honoring the Indigenous rather than the oppressor.