Abandoning Tradition

Elise Guerrero, Writer

Columbus Day has recently become a controversial holiday that the people of the United States of America celebrate. This year it falls on October 10th, 2022. More and more people across the country are choosing to not celebrate this holiday at all. However, they choose to instead celebrate Indigenous People’s Day on the same day as Columbus Day.

Let’s go back to the roots of this holiday and see why our government chose to make this day a holiday. This day celebrates the landing of Christopher Columbus in the Americas, in 1492. It was an unofficial holiday that was celebrated in the 18th century, and didn’t become a federal holiday until the year 1937. This day is supposed to honor Columbus’ achievements, but instead has become a controversy amongst the people of today.

The controversy behind this holiday is due to the fact that the indigenous people have been here all along. Columbus thought he had found the land of “India,” leading him to believe that the people of this land were “Indians.” He took the people back to his land to force them to work for him, claiming that he founded new land. But none of that was true. What he did find instead was an already inhabited land, of the Americans.

The late 1980’s is when people really started to take a stand on the matter. They began to speak out about their opinions. Colorado’s American Indian Movement chapter started protesting about the celebration of Columbus Day. In 1989, activists from South Dakota managed to talk their way into replacing Columbus Day with Native American Day. Both Colorado and South Dakota had a large number of Native populations that helped play a role in the protest, later called the Red Power Movement. They hoped that by participating, it would make American Indian people more visible to the political world.

Later in 1992, during Columbus Days’ 500th anniversary, American Indians in Berkeley, California, created the first ever Indigenous Peoples Day. Which later was adopted by the city council. This holiday was created to celebrate and honor Native American people, and commemorate their history along with their cultures. It is now celebrated across all of the United States, on the second Monday in October.

I went around campus and asked many students their opinion on whether or not we should celebrate Columbus Day. The results I got were decently split. Many students who claimed they didn’t know much about the holiday still spoke and said “Yes, we should celebrate Columbus Day because he is a part of our nation’s history.” When I later explained to them the history of the holiday, many changed their minds on their answer, while some stuck with their first answer claiming that he is still a part of our history and should be celebrated. An anonymous student answered “No, he enslaved many people and took credit for finding America when in reality he didn’t. I don’t understand why people still celebrate Columbus Day.”

Many school districts get the second Monday of October off to celebrate these holidays. It doesn’t matter whether you celebrate Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day because both holidays are valid and you are entitled to celebrate either, or.