Indigenous Peoples Deserve Better

Celebrating Columbus Day without acknowledging the repercussions he had on Native Americans is insensitive.

Susana+Angelica+Ollin+Kuikatl+Banuelos+recites+a+prayer+at+a+celebration+for+Indigenous+Peoples+Day+in+Chicago+on+Oct.+12%2C+2020.

Terrence Antonio James

Susana Angelica Ollin Kuikatl Banuelos recites a prayer at a celebration for Indigenous Peoples Day in Chicago on Oct. 12, 2020.

Ava Albracht, Reporter

In a perfect world, of course, celebrating the “discovery” of the Americas would be justified; however, Christopher Columbus was not perfect and his actions led to the exploitation and abuse of indigenous peoples and therefore should not be celebrated with a national holiday.

In the centuries since Oct. 12, 1492, colonizers have stolen Native peoples’ land and made them out to be “uncivilized.” Although that might seem like ancient history, how is it that major sports team, such as the Washington Football Team (formerly the Washington Redskins), be able to operate under a name and a mascot that so blatantly disrespects Native Americans and their culture? Quite frankly, it is unacceptable for a public school’s mascot to be so ignorant and cruel to the people who were here before anyone else and who nurtured the land we walk on today.

Columbus Day should not be celebrated until all of the horrible acts against Native Americans are somehow reversed or until Native Americans are no longer being discriminated against, which will likely never happen, seeing as 54 percent of Native Americans report discrimination due to race when applying for jobs and when being promoted and being paid in majority native areas, according to the National Public Radio.

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Although sailing the Atlantic and being the first Europeans to step foot in the New World is a considerable feat, the damage it caused to Native American communities is irrevocable. Instead of celebrating an event that led to the displacement, disease, abuse, and alcoholism in Indigenous communities, we should be celebrating the communities that endured these hardships. Today, only six of the fifty states celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, according to CNN. However, advocates continue to push for recognition across the US.

Though some who support the celebration of Columbus Day feel that they are the victims of reverse racism that simply is not the case. Refusing to celebrate Columbus Day is not racist. It is just trying to show the full scope of American history rather than excluding a group that has lived on the margins of society ever since European colonizers stole their land, committed genocide, and forced them to walk The Trail of Tears, which caused between approximately 8,700 and 17,000 Native Americans to die as a result according to the African American Policy Forum. No one is trying to kill anyone or discriminate against white people based on skin color, so it is safe to say that white people are not victims of any racism or reverse racism now or ever.

As for Italian Americans who see Christopher Columbus as an Italian icon and part of the reason Italian immigrants started to become less discriminated against, luckily times have changed, and there are countless Italian figures to look up to. Some examples include: Frank Sinatra, Robert de Niro, Sylvester Stalone, Joe DiMaggio; all of which would be suitable candidates for statues, and none of them symbolize the beginning of the exploitation of Indigenous peoples.

When approaching a topic such as this, education and understanding is of the utmost importance which is why we also need to do more in schools to educate students of all ages about what Columbus’s voyage set into motion in the Americas. As a society, we need to educate ourselves about Native American cultures and their experiences and celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day helps us to do that.