Today is the 78th time that Columbus Day has been celebrated as a federal holiday. Over the years, we’ve seen it go from a memorial to New World colonization and exploitation whitewashed to make it seem as it were divine will to one of those floating holidays that employers like to dangle in front of their workers and stores love to have sales on. And, while the exploitation of the worker and consumer class that’s the holiday today is actually a fairly good summary of what Columbus brought to the New World, it’s nothing to celebrate by any means.
The old reasons to celebrate Columbus have fallen by the wayside. We know now that Columbus didn’t discover America, nor was he the first white European to do so. And, while we admit that colonization made this country possible, the exploitation and/or genocide of the native populations and cultures in doing so isn’t a thing for anybody to be proud of.
Not all places in the U.S. celebrate Columbus Day. Hawaii celebrates Discoverers’ Day the same day, and doesn’t consider it or Columbus Day a legal holiday. South Dakota celebrates Native American Day. Oregon and Alaska don’t celebrate it at all, and Iowa and Nevada don’t celebrate it as an official holiday, but their governors are “authorized and requested” by statute to proclaim the day each year. Various tribal governments in Oklahoma either designate the day Native American Day, or they name the day after their tribe.
In 1992, Berkeley, California was the first city to call the holiday Indigenous People’s Day. This idea has spread to various locations across the country including Sebastopol and Santa Cruz, California, Dane County, Wisconsin (the Madison area), Seattle and Minneapolis.
This is the first year that Minneapolis has celebrated Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day. In declaring it, the Minneapolis City Council said it was an attempt to recognize the history and contributions of American Indians in and around the city. Events will be held at the Minneapolis Indian Center, and include speeches by Senator Al Franken, Congressman Keith Ellison, Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges, and a keynote address by activist and former vice presidential candidate Winona LaDuke.
Occupy World Writes congratulates Minneapolis for making this day be about our Native population and their culture instead of celebrating colonialism, exploitation and genocide. We encourage the rest of the nation to follow suit.