Columbus Day

The student government at Arizona State University has voted to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People Day. The Tempe Undergraduate Student Government Senate passed Bill 44 to rename the holiday after contentious debate on campus.

Christopher Columbus has long been known as an admirable adventurer in American lore whose adventurous spirit led him to “discover” America. But, in recent years his legacy has faced mounting criticism for the perceived negative effects his life had on Native Americans.

In the United States, Columbus Day is an official federal holiday. However, not all states recognize the day. South Dakota, instead, celebrates Native American Day. The name “Indigenous People Day” originated in Berkley, California, a city that began celebrating the holiday as an alternative to Columbus Day in 1992.

In Tempe, students were split on the issue. Those in support of the change believed that the bill was a positive way to commemorate the Native Americans whose lives they say were lost as a result of Columbus’s arrival to the New World. The opposition said the bill was an example of unnecessary political correctness. There was also another group that preferred that the campus do away with celebrating the day for either cause.

Many admirers of Columbus view him as a symbol of exploration, perseverance, innovation and the beginning of the American spirit. However, critics of the famous explorer paint a darker picture of the man, and more broadly, of European settlement of the New World that he represents. They often cite, for example, the diseases carried by European explorers like Columbus and his men, which caused the deaths of many Native Americans.

An editorial in The State Press, a campus student newspaper, praised the intent behind the name change. “When we recognize the holiday as Columbus’ Day, we already remember the person who launched the trajectory that left Native Americans in the state they are today — living on reservations where they suffer from the lowest rates of education and health care in the country.”

However, Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity questions the rationale behind the name change. “There’s nothing wrong with celebrating Native America — as a heritage, not a race, since the principle of E pluribus unum means that we shouldn’t be singling out particular races for celebration,“ he said. “And there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the heroic explorers of America either.”

“We should be able to celebrate both without denigrating either. The juxtaposition in replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People Day, on the other hand, is a silly anti-Western statement and a celebration of fashionable victimhood,” Clegg added.

Bill 44 has been passed in Tempe, but Columbus, his legacy and his holiday remain controversial subjects. It is clear that Columbus’s complicated legacy will continue to inspire controversy for a long time to come.

Fix Contributor Blake Baxter is a student at Eureka College.

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Though Columbus Day is just a normal Monday for Columbia, students took to College Walk for protests—and hamburgers.

As members of the Native American Council and Latino outreach group Lucha held separate activist events, the Columbia University College Republicans threw their annual barbecue to “celebrate the day we should have off,” said Lauren Salz, CU Republicans chair.

Though the University does not officially recognize Columbus Day as a holiday, students from the Native American Council assembled for the fourth year in a row on Low Plaza to lobby for a school-wide celebration of Indigenous People’s Day.

Club leaders John Haney and Halley Hair said they hoped to spread awareness about issues surrounding indigenous groups in the Americas. NAC members spelled out “Indigenous People’s Day” along the right-hand wall facing Low Library in mock “Wanted” posters for Christopher Columbus. The posters accused Columbus of grand theft, genocide, racism, and “initiating the destruction of a culture.” [...]

The College Republicans took advantage of the warm weather to host their annual barbecue on Van Am Quad, and handed out free food throughout. Salz said that she witnessed this tradition during her visit to Columbia as a junior in high school, and wanted to carry on the tradition during her time at the University. Salz acknowledged the other events, but said the barbecue was not meant to run counter to them.

“We are not in opposition to the other groups. We support their right to celebrate their causes,” Salz said. “We are simply using Columbus Day as a good excuse to have a holiday and eat good food.”

Read the full story at the Columbia Spectator.

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The University of Oregon, unlike many universities in this country, does not get a day off for Columbus Day.

In fact, the holiday is not even present on the UO’s academic calendar, much to the dismay of the ASUO’s Multicultural Center and Native American Student Union. But, if the day were present on the academic calendar as “Columbus Day,” I can’t imagine the MCC and NASU would be any more pleased.

Today, in the EMU Amphitheater, NASU and the MCC are hosting an event for “Indigenous Solidarity Day,” complete with traditional drummers, speeches, red armbands, and t-shirts with the words “RED POWER” proudly displayed in bold, bright red text. Today’s protest, led by a Native American UO student and veteran, is considerably less abrasive than years past.

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