The Minneapolis City Council is scheduled to vote on Friday April 25 on a proposal to change that October holiday from Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. Here are five reasons they should vote yes:
1) Setting history straighter: Celebrating Columbus Day reduces history to a simple-minded story, and one that’s wrong on a lot of counts. He “discovered America?” Not exactly — there were already plenty of people living in the Americas. As Bill Means told MPR:
“We had been edited out of existence in the public school system. … To say Columbus discovered America is one of the first lies we’re told in public education.”
2) Rejecting genocide: A legacy of racism and genocide began with Columbus and continued with those who came after him. He claimed the land and waters that indigenous people already farmed, fished and hunted. Then the genocide began: enslaving the Arawak and Taino people, working them to death in mines, and killing them outright.
3) Recognizing contributions of indigenous people: Renaming the holiday is a small beginning in recognizing their historic and ongoing contributions to history, culture, and economic life.
4) Healing the wounds of centuries of racism: That’s a long journey. This is one step on the road.
5) Honoring indigenous people — in Minnesota, and around the world — by renaming the holiday as Indigenous People’s Day. (South Dakota already celebrates Native American Day instead of Columbus Day.)
Columbus Day is a federal holiday, and also a state holiday in many (but not all) states. It’s a Minnesota state holiday, according to statute. Sort of —
However, for the executive branch of the state of Minnesota, “holiday” also includes the Friday after Thanksgiving but does not include Christopher Columbus Day. Other branches of state government and political subdivisions shall have the option of determining whether Christopher Columbus Day and the Friday after Thanksgiving shall be holidays. Where it is determined that Columbus Day or the Friday after Thanksgiving is not a holiday, public business may be conducted thereon.
If you’re interested in the federal holiday and if you believe in petitions, there’s a Change.org petition to replace the federal holiday with Indigenous People’s Day.