Indigenous People’s Day vs Columbus Day


Emely Chairez, Writer/Editor

Indigenous People’s Day is a holiday celebrated on Oct. 11, the same day as Columbus Day. 

Indigenous People’s Day is meant to celebrate and honor Indigenous people and their cultures, whereas Columbus Day is meant to celebrate Christopher Columbus and his finding of America. 

Over a dozen states and 130 local governments have chosen to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day or celebrate them both together. This year is the first that Nebraska will officially celebrate Indigenous People’s Day along with Columbus Day.

More and more people are choosing to not celebrate Columbus Day for a variety of reasons. The holiday was first put in place to honor Christopher Columbus in being the person to discover the Americas. The issue with that is that Indigenous people had been living in the United States for thousands of years. They discovered it long before Columbus. According to an article published by The Atlantic titled “A New History of the First People in the Americas,” it was an estimated 20,000 years before, in fact. 

According to another article written for Penn Today, “Indigenous Views of Christopher Columbus,” many Indigenous people feel as though if people are going to celebrate the discovery of America, they should celebrate the millions of Natives that were there before Columbus. 

A second reason why people choose not to honor Columbus is because his “discovery” led to the genocide of Indigenous people. According to a study done by Yale University’s Genocide Studies Program, when Columbus arrived to the New World, he encountered the Taino people and their population was estimated to be over a million. When Columbus left, there were only 32,000 Taino people left. By honoring the discovery of America by Columbus, some people feel as though they are inadvertently celebrating the genocide of thousands of Indigenous people. To combat this feeling, they choose to only celebrate Indigenous People’s Day. 

However, some people choose to celebrate both. They recognize that Columbus did play a role in getting more people to America, yet it did have several harmful repercussions. They honor the Indigenous lives that were lost but still recognize that Columbus had an important role in history. 

I understand why people choose to respect both days. However, I feel it is best to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day rather than Columbus Day. According to an article titled “Why Columbus Day Courts Controversy” from the History Channel, Columbus forced the conversion of Indigenous people to Christianity, and on his first day in the New World, he enslaved six Natives. His arrival to the Americas also led to the spread of several diseases that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Indigenous people. 

According to an article published by The Washington Post titled “Here are the Indigenous people Christopher Columbus and his men could not annihilate,” Columbus and his men abused hundreds of thousands of people by using sex and labor slavery. On one account, Columbus stated that young girls ages 9-10 were in large demand. On another account, Columbus and his men slaughtered men, women, children and even babies and placed bets on how many hits it would take to kill them. 

Due to this, I feel it is disrespectful to celebrate a man who enabled many atrocities and a mass genocide to occur. Instead, we should honor Indigenous lives and realize the value they hold. We should also honor and remember the millions of Indigenous people that were killed. We must celebrate Indigenous lives and learn from them. We can do so by reading books by Indigenous authors, listening to Indigenous artists, and looking into the cultures of Indigenous people.