Editorial: District 204 should stop honoring Columbus’ legacy

Celebrating+Columbus+Day+or+Indigenous+Peoples%27+Day%3FReconsider+the+implications+of+both.

Madi Lumsden

Celebrating Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples' Day?Reconsider the implications of both.

Christopher Columbus’ legacy is tarnished, as it should be. Columbus landing on the shores of the Bahamas in 1492 allowed European conquerors to enslave the people inhabiting the now-called Americas. 

Since Columbus set foot on American soil, generations of Native populations have endured genocide, rape, forced labor, and disease at the hands of colonists. While some argue that Columbus himself did not commit all these crimes, he opened the door for colonial powers to come in and systematically oppress entire civilizations. 

Certain states such as Alaska, Vermont, and Minnesota have attempted to shy away from Columbus’ legacy by rebranding the second Monday of October as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” While honoring indigenous people is a worthy goal, simply renaming Columbus Day exacerbates the issue. Renaming it as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” does not take away from the horrors of colonization. It is not celebrating Indigenous People; it is another reminder of a day that forever wrecked the cultural landscape of the American continents. 

District 204 has attempted to pay homage to the Native populations of the Fox Valley by naming schools after important Native leaders from the area. It is ironic that a school district named Indian Prairie continues to celebrate Columbus Day. 

The Stampede Editorial Board believes that the District 204 school board should stop honoring Columbus Day, nor should it simply rename the day in a shallow attempt to repair Columbus’ actions. There is a need for real action, and simply renaming the date continues to add to the disenfranchisement of Native populations.

The United States has a long history of mistreating and violating the rights of Native Americans, starting much before Andrew Jackson. Native Americans did not become citizens under the Constitution until 1924. According to Mental Health America, Native Americans are twice as likely to be in poverty or unemployed, and experience PTSD at twice the national rate. This cycle of disenfranchisement is not unique to the United States, but it is a part of American history that not many people have had to reckon with.

In education, only 13% of Native American adults have college degrees. But the problems often start earlier, in grade school. .02% of District 204 students identify as Native American. The district can do a better job of teaching Native American history not just in classes, but through events and awareness around the school. Other ethnic groups find adequate representation and exposure. Let’s extend that to our Native American classmates. 

If governments want to begin making reparations to Native populations, legislation that is financially and politically empowering is a great place to start. Economic programs that provide jobs, education, adequate infrastructure, and healthcare to reservations can also help alleviate the most pressing issues of modern Native Americans. 

School boards can also play a role by properly educating students of the atrocities committed against Native Americans. Continuing to celebrate Columbus’ Day is an insult to Native Americans and simply renaming it “Indigenous People’s Day” is a band-aid on a much larger wound.