Cities replace Columbus with “Indigenous Peoples Day”

Columbus Day is celebrated across the U.S. marking the explorer’s 1492 arrival in the Americas. However, heavy criticism for the holiday stems back to the early 1990’s. Critics claim the federal holiday overlooks a tragic past of enslavement, the unauthorized taking over of land, and colonialism. Those feelings have led to Indigenous Peoples Day.

Dr. Celine Carayon says, “The idea is to promote a more accurate understanding and a more respectful knowledge of early American history.”

Dr. Carayon teaches Native American History at Salisbury University. She believes there are essentially two main issues with Columbus Day. 

She goes on, “It’s quite inaccurate to celebrate Columbus as a hero or as a great discoverer because he just stumbled upon America.”

He was trying to reach East Asia. That’s the first problem. The second issue is that many find the day offensive.

Dr. Carayon continues, “Indigenous people, but also the non- native allies, feel that it’s disrespectful to the millions of dead Native Americans and all the suffering. All of this resulted from the encounter and from Columbus’ invasion.”

Albuquerque, New Mexico and Portland, Oregon are two of at least nine cities celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day for the first time this year. It’s replacing Columbus Day.

Dr. Carayon is a strong supporter of the change. She doesn’t believe it minimizes the explorer’s achievement, for example, being one of the first Europeans to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Rather than that, Dr. Carayon thinks it sheds an honest light on events, giving a voice to a group whose history was written by their conquerors for so many years.  

Dr. Carayon says, “There’s no use fabricating history and fabricating myth. There are things that are worthy of celebration, just maybe not Columbus.”

The Salisbury University history department will be recognizing Native American Heritage month in November through a series of events and presentations. For more information, click here. 

Categories: Local News, Top Stories