As we celebrate Columbus Day, Native Americans all over the country are reminded of how they were cheated. It’s only appropriate to change the focus of the holiday to celebrate the culture of a proud people.
Keeping the name of the holiday Columbus Day brings to mind how Native Americans were abused and portrays them as a helpless population. But the truth is, they’re a proud and stalwart people who have endured multiple attempts of outside parties to destroy their culture.
This is why the petition to change the name of the holiday to Indigenous People’s Day is so appropriate. The purpose of the holiday changes to be one that portrays the rich and proud culture of Native Americans. And now, with the battle against the Dakota Pipeline still ongoing, it’s important to remember to stand with them in their battle to keep what is rightfully theirs.
Back on the reservation where I lived, the people refused to celebrate Columbus Day. The holiday suggests that Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas when clearly, the Native Americans had been there long before Europeans. Columbus Day discredits the Native Americans that have been inhabiting the land since millennia before 1492.
History classes have taught us that since the arrival of Europeans on American soil, land has been slowly stolen from Native Americans for the purposes of colonization by white immigrants. As the U.S. became an established and powerful entity, immigrants strengthened their grip and kept pushing Native American tribes further out into the West.
One forced migration of Native Americans from 1838 to 1839 is known as the Trail of Tears—a forced march which uprooted some 15,000 Cherokee Indians from their homes near the Mississippi River and sent them to Oklahoma. The long and arduous trek killed 4,000 out of the 15,000 walkers.
Keeping Columbus Day as a holiday is like a slap in the face where it still stings for the suffering that their people endured.
Changing the name of the holiday not only empowers the 5.4 million Native Americans living in the U.S., but also the indigenous peoples that live in the Caribbean Islands—where Columbus first landed. It was among these islands that he enacted a genocide for the purpose of European expansion. With that in mind, it’s much better to remember the indigenous people rather than the orchestrator of their genocide.
A celebration of Native Americans also gives the chance to explore and discover the different ways of life that exist within a historically rich culture. This holiday invites all of us step away from what is familiar in order to gain a better understanding of a different way of life. By doing so, we gain a new perspective for ourselves.
My experiences living on the Colorado River Indian Reservation offered me a new perspective and exposed me to culture that I wouldn’t have had the chance to experience otherwise. I can say that it is something that I hope others get the chance to experience as well, maybe through the existence of this holiday.
By changing Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, we can also establish a stronger relationship between people instead of remembering the animosity that Columbus Day currently brings. Let’s stand together and make a change for the better.
Follow Andrew Alamban on Twitter.