Indigenous People’s Day vs. Columbus Day

Native Americans have protested Columbus Day for decades, because it erases thousands of years of Indigenous history, and ignores Columbus’ role as a violent conqueror and a slave trader.

Monday, for the first time in US history, the country recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day. However, the holiday was celebrated alongside the federally recognized Columbus Day. Native Americans have protested Columbus Day for decades, because it erases thousands of years of Indigenous history, and ignores Columbus’ role as a violent conqueror and a slave trader.

Dr. Steve Hausmann, professor of Native American history, said the presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day is the result of a half century of work by activists: 

“At the same time that the Columbus day legislation is going through Congress, you also have groups like the American Indian Movement, as well as native thinkers and writers like Vine Deloria Jr. who are pushing against this Columbus Day narrative, or pushing a counter narrative about what Columbus day really means,” he said.

Hausmann said it was Italian American immigrants who originally lobbied for the recognition of Columbus Day in the 1930s. He said it would take an act of congress to formally reverse the federal holiday.

Tom LaBlanc, a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota Tribe, said he thinks the U.S. government has resisted recognizing Indigenous history and culture because it contradicts western values.  

“And as long as they continue to allow Columbus and that kind of mentality to survive, we’ll never face the truth,” said LaBlanc. “So they can continue on with Columbus and we’ll tear down the statues, or ignore it, and have our own celebrations because we represent life, not death.”

While Minnesota celebrates Indigenous People’s Day, it is not a legal holiday. Many cities across the country still recognize the second Monday in October as Columbus Day. 

Photo Credits: Chioma Uwagwu

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