Celebrating Indigenous Peoples, Not Columbus

October 11, 2010 — 1 Comment

All the banks near my house in Boston currently have signs on the door that say “Columbus Day is a National Holiday. This branch will be closed Monday October 12, 2010.” One even has a nice little picture of a boat. It makes me so angry every time I walk by, imagining all the kids in schools all over the US reciting the 1492 rhyme, learning about the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, and coloring in pictures like those on the banks. I hate that this narrative of “discovery” has been so ingrained into our collective American consciousness.

(my friend Jenny a couple years ago in front of the same bank)

I can wax eloquent about what this means for us as Native people, or what it says about our priorities as a Nation, but the bottom line is this: Columbus Day sucks. We’re celebrating a man who managed to “discover” a place that had already been inhabited by millions of people for thousands of years, who never actually set foot on the North American continent, who encouraged the raping and enslaving of Native peoples, and laid the groundwork for the ensuing centuries of imperialism and colonialism.

So basically, he didn’t “discover” anything. He didn’t “prove” the world was round. He was pretty dumb, actually. So why does Columbus get a National holiday?

Italian Americans have adopted the day as a holiday celebrating their heritage, and I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but Italians already have a whole MONTH of celebration. So why not use that time to celebrate some Italian-Americans or Italians who have done awesome things that have contributed to the betterment of society, rather than Columbus?

Today I’ve prepared a series of posts, linking to some great resources from around the internet–videos, articles, and political cartoons, that draw attention to the ridiculousness of this day and will hopefully stir some conversation and maybe even some debate about the meaning and power of this day.

So today, as you go about your lives, enjoying your day off, remember to stop and celebrate 518 years of resilience and resistance, instead of colonialism and genocide. Celebrate Indigenous Peoples, not Columbus.

Adrienne K.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05695394952485731743 nympholepsy jones

    “Italian Americans have adopted the day as a holiday celebrating their heritage” well, not all of us ;)

    Augh, I can’t believe people still believe this Columbus myth. A few days ago I was chatting with some newish friends and one of them goes, “Yay, it’s a long weekend!” “Why? Columbus Day?” “No, Canadian Thanksgiving, but that too,” and then they start talking about how great Columbus Day is and blah blah and I was so uncomfortable and paralyzed with indecision, should I say something and be the Debbie Downer? Should I let it blow over? I don’t know them very well. I always wish I’d said something afterwards, though. Have no problem chewing out strangers for it, sigh.