Columbus Day: time for change

Graphic by: Kennedy Homan

This year marks the 525th anniversary of Christopher Columbus discovering (read: commandeering) the New World. Historically, Columbus has been celebrated as a pioneer and a figurehead for Italian-Americans. However, Columbus also triggered the genocide of millions of the indigenous people living in in the Americas.

Christopher Columbus set up programs on the island of Española (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) to systematically exterminate the Taíno Natives. The Taíno population, which was at approximately eight million at the time of Columbus’s arrival, was reduced to two hundred by 1542. This system of genocide continued even after Columbus’s time, resulting in the loss of many lives and cultures at the hands of European brutality. The mistreatment of Native peoples was a foundation upon which America was built, and that mistreatment continues today.

Throughout August, cities all over the country began the processes of removing Confederate flags and statues of Confederate soldiers. Confederate flags and statues represented the Confederacy or the southern states who wanted to secede from the union. The Confederacy seceded primarily on principles that were racist- that is, the Confederacy wanted to preserve slavery. Celebrating those symbols reflects our modern values and perpetuates the hate they inspire.

On August 30, the Los Angeles City Council voted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. Cities including Seattle, Albuquerque, and Denver have already made the switch years prior; Aurora ought to follow suit. Renaming the day to honor Native people is just one small step we can take to apologize for centuries of mistreatment. What’s more, on Indigenous Peoples Day schools could have discussions with students about the history of Native American-US relations, similar to what we do on 9/11. It’s important for us as a country to begin making amends and to learn from the violence of our past in order to build a more peaceful future.  

Celebrating Columbus Day and Confederate statues go hand in hand: both are important parts of history to teach and know about, but neither should be honored with a day or a statue in its memory. It’s time we make a change and stop celebrating Columbus Day.