Today is the second Monday in October – a day traditionally deemed “Columbus Day” in the US and used to celebrate Columbus’s “discovery” of the Americas. Here’s the thing about this narrative – it’s the traditional (read: original) European colonizer narrative we all know and love (to hate). Christopher Columbus and his crew circa 1492 sailed the ocean blue, got lost, “found” a “new world” populated by entire civilizations of people, claimed it for their monarchs, and now US school children celebrate this “auspicious” journey. Anyone else see a problem with this?
In this “post colonial” world (where the US, Britain, and many other European countries still have colonies no one wants to talk about) in which we all theoretically know and acknowledge the damage colonialism did (does) to existing societies and peoples in these regions (*ahem* disease, slavery, destruction of indigenous cultures/religions/etc, etc), how is it that we still choose to teach our school kids this antiquated, history-written-by-the-victor narrative? How is it that they are given this day off school to celebrate (subconsciously positively reinforce) the greatness of this colonizer, but are not given President’s Day off to celebrate legitimately great individuals? How is it that we have a President who refuses to acknowledge the pain, suffering, and displacement caused by this man along with his adventurous spirit (the last one managed to do both… #justsayin)? I have no idea, but it’s infuriating.
Thankfully, while my calendar is still printed to say “Columbus Day” and the government insists on continuing this tradition, many schools, workplaces, and people have taken to calling today Indigenous Peoples’ Day – flipping the narrative away from celebrating the colonizer to recognizing the plight of the colonized (and celebrating their strength and existence). In my adult life, the number of people and places celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day has steadily increased – one can only hope we continue the uphill trend… and one day return to a world in which the American President can acknowledge both the ingenuity of this man and the destruction he brought.