Rethinking Columbus Day

Remember when we learned about the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria and the determined explorer, Christopher Columbus? Funny how the name of three sailing ships can bring back the memory of elementary school cafeterias, seemingly endless recess on the playground and mean, teasing boys!

So, a little bit about Columbus Day. We now look differently at that day in 1492 (we all know the rhyme too) when Columbus landed in the Americas. As is often the case, the lens of history and increased awareness enable us to see what really happened. Yes, he and his crews sailed the three ships to our land, but the story isn’t as simple as the one we were told in elementary school. Columbus arriving in the Western Hemisphere is considered the beginning of the colonial takeovers of the Americas. His arrival led to the deaths of millions of Native Americans, with survivors forced to assimilate.

The first Columbus Day was celebrated in 1792 in New York. In 1934, Franklin Roosevelt declared it a federal holiday. Since that time, many Indigenous populations in the Americas have protested Columbus Day and proposed the day be replaced with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Now we recognize that Native Americans were the first inhabitants of the Americas and their land became the United States of America. Although not yet celebrated throughout the U.S., let’s hope someday it will be.

As we get older and wiser, I inspire you to rethink history! Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day!