More Americans are recognising Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day

'We are no longer going to celebrate a time of genocide'

Justin Carissimo
New York
Monday 12 October 2015 15:43 BST
Demonstrators protest Columbus Day in Los Angeles.
Demonstrators protest Columbus Day in Los Angeles.

Christopher Columbus and his crew are largely responsible for the genocide of 20 million indigenous people, nearly 95 percent of the American population — yet he is celebrated worldwide, and with a federal holiday in the states.

However, cities across the US have dropped Columbus Day to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day. Among the cities to make the change are Albuquerque, New Mexico; Portland, Oregon; St Paul, Minnesota and Olympia, Washington.

Native American activists and allies pushed lawmakers to recognise that honouring Columbus Day simply whitewashes the painful history of genocide, colonialism, enslavement and discrimination that followed Columbus’ voyage to the Americas way back when.

After "discovering" the Americas in 1492, Columbus would later reward his comrades with sex slaves — young girls who were typically 9 to 10-years-old.

“A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand,” he wrote in the 1500s.

Bartolomé de las Casas worked alongside Columbus. After witnessing the “barbaric” actions Europeans took against Native Americans, he quit his job to become a Catholic priest.

“Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight as no age can parallel. My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature that now I tremble as I write," he said in his writings.

South Dakota renamed Columbus Day to Native American Day in 1990, becoming the first and only state to recognize the holiday. Meanwhile, Berkeley, California, has observed Indigenous Peoples Day since 1992. Oklahoma City will be the next community to consider adopting a similar holiday.

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury explained exactly why Portland, Oregon has chosen to ditch the former holiday.

“Reclaiming the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day makes a powerful statement. It says, ‘We are no longer going to celebrate a time of genocide, but instead we will honor the land we live on and the people who have been here since the beginning.”‘

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