According to the Assosciated Press, multiple states, including Minnesota and New Mexico, are detaching from Columbus Day and embracing Indigenous traditions instead. The New York Times reported that Maine and Vermont passed a law earlier in 2019 that renamed Columbus Day.
This decision was not without conservative pushback though. Republican Mayor Nick Isgro referred to the name change as “selective historical outrage.”
I’m sure you learned about Christopher Columbus in grade school. The explorer was presented as a savior and an American pillar for bringing “civilization to savages.” His exploitative travels also directly led to globalization (the mass exchange of ideas and conducting of international business), a direct descendant of capitalism. But the truth is, Columbus was a cruel, self-seeking capitalist who sought to force religion on people of color.
Islamophobia and xenophobia were also a part of the reason why Columbus went to “discover America” in the first place. Spain, the country who’s name he traveled in, wanted to cut out Muslim traders and the Silk Road from their network, and find a direct route to spices and resources. Columbus’ journey was a failure, not only because he landed in the Indies and not America, but ultimately because he brought disease, death, and slavery to people of color. But this bleak history has long been glossed over. In 1934, the federal government decided to honor Columbus with a holiday on the second Monday in October. 75 years later though, states are deciding to honor the people who were here first with Indigenous People’s Day.
New Mexico will also honor Indigenous Peoples Day with a parade and a mass, multi-lingual prayer. Last month, Louisiana decided to celebrate the holiday as well, thanks to 27-year-old Baley Champagne. Champagne reached out to the office of Governor Bel Edwards in late July, and Governor Edwards honored her request in mid-September.
“It helps recognize us.”, Champagne said to WAFB 9. “We come from a very rich culture in our country and state, but we sometimes go unnoticed. We’re still here, but we’re not celebrated or recognized. We go unnoticed a lot. This proclamation brings a conversation, awareness, and recognition…”
Today, Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a proclamation renaming Columbus Day. But, until the bill (issued last Friday by Senator Jeff Irwin) calling for the renaming of holiday passes legislation, it won’t be law.
Wisconsin will be celebrating both Columbus Day and Indigenous People’s Day.
This shift is necessary, as it celebrates the Indigenous People who truly discovered American. Historically, they have been displaced and disrespected. We’re changing the way we consider them though, as well as Christopher Columbus – one state at a time.
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