Controversy Surrounds Columbus Day

For over 80 years Americans have celebrated Christopher Columbus sailing the ocean blue.

For over 80 years Americans have celebrated Christopher Columbus “sailing the ocean blue.”

Iona Brooks, Staff Writer

Since 1937, America has taken off the second Monday of every October to honor Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the Americas. This federal holiday celebrates the day in 1492 when Columbus first landed in the Bahamas and brought about a new era of globalization— and subsequently the colonization and oppression of Native Americans. With the rise in social justice and activism in recent years, this national holiday has been surrounded by controversy and many are demanding it be renamed or abolished entirely.

For many Native Americans, Columbus day marks a celebration of the theft of their land and culture by European colonists. European colonization of the Americas brought with it the systematic oppression of the native people. Celebrating Christopher Columbus indirectly condones the genocide of indigenous people.

The irony of the matter is Christopher Columbus was not the first European to “discover” the Americas. Viking Leif Eriksson is often credited as being the first European to land in North America and the Italian merchant Amerigo Vespucci was the first to recognize the Americas as distinct continents, as opposed to Columbus who thought he had arrived in India. However, which European technically arrived in the Americas first is largely insignificant. The reality is that Native Americans lived on these lands far before Europeans even considered crossing the Atlantic Ocean. If we are to have a holiday to celebrate the first people in America then it is the Native Americans that deserves the recognition.

In recent years, there has been a movement across the United States to do just that: rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Some states such as Wisconsin and Maine are already enacting legislation to officially rename the holiday.

As the United States continues to progress on its journey to uphold and respect civil liberties and rights for all American citizens, the renaming of Columbus Day is just one small way we can begin to repair our relationship with the past and pave the way for a brighter future.