Redefining Columbus Day

columbus day 2Columbus Day seems to have evolved into a day that most students in America look forward to; not to learn about Christopher Columbus, who he was, and the truths behind the holiday that has been celebrated for centuries, but because schools are closed. After asking senior student at Leonia High School, Lee Joon Choi, what Columbus Day means to her, she replied, “To be honest, in terms of celebrating the day, I only remember doing that in elementary school. Now, I just like the day because I can sleep in for one extra day. I don’t really give much thought to the holiday itself.” She further elaborated on her memories of studying Columbus Day only in her first few years of school, celebrating Columbus’ voyage and “discovery” of the Americas in 1492 by making tribal hats with paper and

drawing in coloring books. Senior Nicolas Escalante was asked the same question and remembered when he “brought in snacks for the class, along with all other students, in order to recreate a feast in the celebration of Columbus Day.” Many other students gave similar responses. These students can recite who was involved, when it happened, and where it happened, based on memories of childhood teachings.

As young adults, it’s important to think about the real significance of the holiday, what really happened, and the celebrations that go on today. Junior Andy Marquardt, was asked what he thinks about the way he was taught the history of Columbus Day, he said, “I completely disagree with the celebration of Columbus Day. columbus day 4It’s very well known that the discovery of the Americas was not made by Colombus, but made by the Taínos. Columbus and his men only conquered the Americas. The Taínos had already lived there.” Andy further voiced his disagreement with the way young children are raised to look up to Christopher Columbus as a discovering hero.

Andy is not alone in challenging Columbus Day festivities. Last October,  students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison held mass protests against celebrating the holiday. Further West, Seattle City Council me
mber Kshama Sawant explained Seattle’s decision to abandon Columbus Day, “Learning about the history of Columbus and transforming this day into a celebration of Indigenous people and a celebration of social justice … allows us to make a connection between this painful history and the ongoing marginalization, discrimination, and poverty that Indigenous communities face to this day.” As Sawant told the Seattle Times, this decision was about taking a stand against racism and discrimination. On October 12, the streets of Seattle were filled with drums, singing, and the faces of citizens from the city’s surrounding Native Nations: the Lummi, Nooksack, Tulalip, Sauk-columbus day 3Suiattle, Swinomish, Puyallup, Colville, and 22 other Washington tribes, as well as citizens from other Indigenous nations that call Seattle home. Seattle isn’t the only major American city to redefine the holiday. Earlier this year, the Minneapolis City Council also renamed Columbus Day “Indigenous People’s Day.” In addition, South Dakota celebrates Native American Day in “remembrance of the great Native American leaders who contributed so much to the history of our state.”
It seems that the strong opposition toward Columbus Day celebration continues to grow, leading to the possibility of one day celebrating a nation wide holiday of remembrance.