Celebrate Culture, Not Colonization, by Replacing Columbus Day

Over+the+past+few+months%2C+protestors+toppled+numerous+Christopher+Columbus+statues+across+the+nation%2C+according+to+the+BBC.+Due+to+the+harm+that+Columbus+inflicted+on+the+Indigenous+community%2C+many+Americans+believed+that+he+is+undeserving+of+commemoration.

Nate Taylor

Over the past few months, protestors toppled numerous Christopher Columbus statues across the nation, according to the BBC. Due to the harm that Columbus inflicted on the Indigenous community, many Americans believed that he is undeserving of commemoration.

Charlotte Cao, Co-News Editor

In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and supposedly discovered the Americas. In 1495, Columbus forcibly gathered 500 Arawaks, the Indigenous people living in Hispaniola, and sold them as slaves in Spain, according to a “People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn. By 1650, due to diseases brought over from the Old World and the brutality of the Spanish, there were no living Arawaks remaining on that island.

In 2020, people must come to recognize that Columbus was not a hero and that Columbus Day should be replaced with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

It doesn’t fit this narrative that America is exceptional. It definitely is a place of freedom for some, and it definitely is a land of opportunity for some, but that’s not very realistic and representative of our history.”

— Natasha Schottland

Columbus Day, which takes place on the second Monday of October, became an official federal holiday in 1971, but it has been celebrated since the 1930s, according to CNN. This long-lasting praise for the Italian explorer is disappointing but unsurprising, given that the American education system often omits historical events that paint the United States in a negative light.

“People want to hear a certain narrative, and they don’t want to hear about the violence and destruction and enslavement of people,” social studies teacher Natasha Schottland said. “It doesn’t fit this narrative that America is exceptional. It definitely is a place of freedom for some, and it definitely is a land of opportunity for some, but that’s not very realistic and representative of our history.”

By commemorating Columbus, Americans are not only perpetuating a false historical perspective, but also undermining the suffering that Indigenous people endured due to Columbus’ expeditions. 

“Indigenous children are going to school and being forced to hear about and celebrate the person who set in motion the genocide of their people,” University of Texas Director of Native American and Indigenous Studies Shannon Speed said in an interview with NPR. “That’s incredibly painful. It creates an ongoing harm. And so we can’t have a national holiday that creates an ongoing harm for a significant portion of our citizens.”

Indigenous peoples first proposed that Indigenous Peoples’ Day could replace Columbus Day in 1977. Since then, certain U.S. states and cities, including Los Angeles, have switched to recognizing the prior. Unfortunately, Irvine is not one of those places, according to the Orange County Public Works website. 

“When we were studying in AP U.S. History, we would look at the maps, and there were hundreds of Native tribes all around the United States,” junior Grace Bashawaty said. “It’s disrespectful to them to have a Columbus Day and not have an Indigenous Peoples’ Day when they were really the first people on this land… We’re actually living on people’s lands, and I think it’s such an erasure of culture.”

For others who are interested in advocating for the local repealment of Columbus Day, contact Irvine council members using the information found at https://www.cityofirvine.org/city-council.