What are you really “celebrating”? Do you truly know what it is when somebody says “Columbus Day”?
Since elementary school and as far back as the beginning of the “U.S.”, Columbus Day has been celebrated. As I got older and realized that Columbus “found” something that was already “found” and that led to the massacre of almost the entire indigenous population I realized what the day means to me. A genocide of a people, of a culture, of a way of life, of everything and entire population of people believed in and held dear to their existence. You may have your own views about it, but that is the one that I claim. So for every one that celebrates this day as Columbus Day, please stand up and clap, scream, whistle, and throw confetti in the air for all of those Indians that were murdered, raped, sodomized, tortured, and enslaved when a lost navigator landed on their territory.
United States Observance
Columbus Day first became an official state holiday in Colorado in 1906, and became a federal holiday in 1937. However, people have celebrated Columbus’ voyage since the colonial period. In 1792, New York City and other U.S. cities celebrated the 300th anniversary of his landing in the New World. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison called upon the people of the United States to celebrate Columbus Day on the 400th anniversary of the event. During the four hundredth anniversary, in 1892, teachers, preachers, poets and politicians used Columbus Day rituals to teach ideals of patriotism. These patriotic rituals were framed around themes such as support for war, citizenship boundaries, the importance of loyalty to the nation, and celebrating social progress.
Catholic immigration in the mid-19th century induced discrimination from anti-immigrant activists such as the Ku Klux Klan. Like many other struggling immigrant communities, Catholics developed organizations to fight discrimination and provide insurance for the struggling immigrants. One such organization, the Knights of Columbus, chose that name in part because it saw Christopher Columbus as a fitting symbol of Catholic immigrants’ right to citizenship: one of their own, a fellow Catholic, had discovered America.
Some Italian-Americans observe Columbus Day as a celebration of their heritage, the first occasion being in New York City on October 12, 1866. Columbus Day was first popularized as a holiday in the United States through the lobbying of Angelo Noce, a first generation Italian, in Denver. The first official, regular Columbus Day holiday was proclaimed by Colorado governor Jesse F. McDonald in 1905 and made a statutory holiday in 1907. In April 1934, as a result of lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, Congress and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made October 12 a federal holiday under the name Columbus Day.
Since 1971, the holiday has been fixed to the second Monday in October, coincidentally the same day as Thanksgiving in neighboring Canada (which was fixed to that date in 1959). It is generally observed today by banks, the bond market, the U.S. Postal Service and other federal agencies, most state government offices, and some school districts. Some businesses and some stock exchanges remain open, also some states and municipalities abstain from observing the holiday.
Actual observance varies in different parts of the United States, ranging from large-scale parades and events to complete non-observance. San Francisco claims the nation’s oldest continuously existing celebration with the Italian-American community’s annual Colombus Day Parade, which was established by Nicola Larco in 1868.
As in the mainland U.S., Columbus Day is a legal holiday in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. In the United States Virgin Islands, however, the day is celebrated as “Puerto Rico-Virgin Islands Friendship Day.”
Three states do not recognize Columbus Day: Hawaii, South Dakota, and Nevada. Hawaii instead celebrates Discoverer’s Day, which commemorates the Polynesian discoverers of Hawaii on the same date, the second Monday of October though the name change has not ended protest related to the observance of Columbus’ discovery. The state government does not treat either Columbus Day or Discoverer’s Day as a legal holiday; state, city and county government offices and schools are open for business. South Dakota celebrates the day as officially a state holiday known as “Native American Day” rather than Columbus Day. Columbus Day is not a legal holiday in Nevada, but it is a day of observance; schools and state, city and county government offices are open.
The city of Berkeley, California has replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day since 1992 a move which has been replicated by several other localities. Two other California cities, Sebastopol and Santa Cruz, now celebrate Indigenous People’s Day. South Dakota renamed the holiday “Native American Day”. Various tribal governments in Oklahoma designate the day “Native American Day”, or name the day after their own tribe.
Virginia celebrates two legal holidays on the day, Columbus Day and Yorktown Victory Day, which honors the final victory at the Siege of Yorktown in the Revolutionary War.
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants, and many ethnic groups who identify with those peoples. They are often also referred to as Native Americans, Aboriginals, First Nations , and (by Christopher Columbus’ geographical and historical mistake) Indians, now disambiguated as the American Indian race, American Indians, Amerindians, Amerinds, or Red Indians.
According to the New World migration model, a migration of humans from Eurasia to the Americas took place via Beringia, a land bridge which connected the two continents across what is now the Bering Strait. The most recent point at which this migration could have taken place is c. 12,000 years ago, with the earliest period remaining a matter of some unresolved contention. These early Paleo-Indians soon spread throughout the Americas, diversifying into many hundreds of culturally distinct nations and tribes. According to the oral histories of many of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, they have been living there since their genesis, described by a wide range of traditional creation accounts.
Application of the term “Indian” originated with Christopher Columbus, who thought that he had arrived in the East Indies, while seeking Asia. Later the name was still used as the Americas at the time were often called West Indies. This has served to imagine a kind of racial or cultural unity for the aboriginal peoples of the Americas. Once created, the unified “Indian” was codified in law, religion, and politics. The unitary idea of “Indians” was not originally shared by indigenous peoples, but many over the last two centuries have embraced the identity.
While some indigenous peoples of the Americas were historically hunter-gatherers, many practiced aquaculture and agriculture. The impact of their agricultural endowment to the world is a testament to their time and work in reshaping, taming, and cultivating the flora indigenous to the Americas. Some societies depended heavily on agriculture while others practiced a mix of farming, hunting, and gathering. In some regions the indigenous peoples created monumental architecture, large-scale organized cities, chiefdoms, states, and empires.
Many parts of the Americas are still populated by indigenous Americans; some countries have sizable populations, such as Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, and Ecuador. At least a thousand different indigenous languages are spoken in the Americas. Some, such as Quechua, Aymara, Guaraní, Mayan languages, and Nahuatl, count their speakers in millions. Many also maintain aspects of indigenous cultural practices to varying degrees, including religion, social organization and subsistence practices. Some indigenous peoples still live in relative isolation from Western society, and a few are still counted as uncontacted peoples.
What are your thoughts on Columbus Day? Leave a comment and let us know.