Target: Barack Obama, President of the United States
Goal: Do away with Columbus Day once and for all, and instead use this national holiday to celebrate Indigenous Peoples.
Columbus Day, which recently passed, falls on the second Monday in October. It has been a federal holiday in the U.S. since 1937, though our understanding of history has grown clearer since then. We now know that Columbus’s “discovery” of the Americas was in fact a for-profit endeavor, marked by violence against indigenous people he encountered, as well as kidnapping, slavery, rape, and the introduction of new diseases into native populations.
As this less-flattering historical view of Columbus has become more widespread, observance of Columbus Day, and even the inclusion of Columbus in school curriculum, has been cloaked in controversy. Four states do not recognize Columbus Day at all, and a number of cities have moved to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day on a local level.
The U.S. is not the only country with a Columbus Day. Many countries in Central and South America and even parts of Europe celebrate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas in 1492. The holiday is called Día de las Américas (Day of the Americas) in Belize and Uruguay, or Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) in many other Latin American Countries. In Argentina, it is celebrated as Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity) – switched from Día de la Raza in 2010, by former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
We should follow Argentina’s lead. Indeed, we as a nation should follow the examples already set by progressive cities like Berkeley, Seattle, Santa Cruz, Cambridge, and others – let’s stop celebrating an anniversary of invasion, rape, and pillage, and instead hold the day in observance of the native peoples, still living in this country, who were forced off of their lands in the wake of colonialism. Sign the petition to tell President Obama, we are done lauding Columbus as a hero.
Dear President Obama,
I am writing to express my support for officially changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the United States. As you may know, several cities have already made this move on a local level, including Berkeley (since 1992), Seattle, Cambridge, Denver, and Santa Cruz – some tribal governments also choose to celebrate this holiday as “Native American Day.” In 2010, the president of Argentina moved to change the holiday to Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity). In short, we as a nation are a little behind the times.
History has proven that Christopher Columbus was no hero, and continuing to celebrate him as the discoverer of America is an injustice against the people who suffered violence, enslavement, and disease in his wake. Instead of sugar coating this portion of our nation’s history, we should use this federal holiday as a day of remembrance for the people who were here before European explorers, and the atrocities they suffered as victims of colonialism. While not turning a blind eye to these historic truths, we can also celebrate the native peoples and native culture still present in the United States today.
I urge you to take action on this matter, and make Indigenous Peoples’ Day a new federal holiday in replacement of Columbus Day.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Hope Moore