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Columbus Day vs. Indigenous People’s Day

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A Controversial Holiday

The three day weekend is upon us! That is because this Monday, Columbus Day in the United States! Or is it Indigenous People’s Day? Either way, this day has seen its fair share of controversy. It may seem like we’ve only heard about it in recent years, but believe it or not, this holiday has been controversial since the late 70’s!

Well, That’s Not Right…

One can see how awkward it is when we name a holiday after a guy who didn’t actually do what we’re crediting him with doing. Christopher Columbus neither “found” nor set foot on American soil. He actually landed on some Caribbean islands.

Plus, there were already ‘Americans’ living in North America well before Columbus was even born, thousands of years before he was born. That sort of ruins the discovery story. But Native Americans didn’t write the history and the history never mentioned some of Columbus’ atrocities, which also blemishes the story.

Indigenous People’s Day

For a long while, there simply wasn’t enough support for the Native American community to change the holiday’s name. Columbus was (and is) a prominent and important figure among Catholics and Italian immigrants. 

Over the years, as more people became aware of the sticky historical accounts of Columbus, the push to change this holiday became stronger. Since 1977, there have been repeated attempts to rename Columbus Day or cancel it altogether.  In 1992, Berkeley, California was the first city to adopt the name “Indigenous People’s Day”. The movement got quiet until 2015 when 17 cities made the switch. Cities like Albuquerque, Portland (Oregon) and Fargo led the way in the States with Belfast, Ireland making the change as well. By 2019, entire states, like Louisiana, Maine, and Vermont joined in.

The Unity of the United States

One of the beauties and one of the challenges of living in the United States is being able to balance the diverse backgrounds of the people living here. Historical narratives may have been biased towards one group, but people are realizing that and starting to make change. What that change is, how it is carried out, and how well it is received is yet to be seen. Perhaps one day, we’ll get to a point where we’ve found a balance so no one feels unfairly marginalized.

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