Indigenous People's Day

Indigenous People's Day: An Alternative to Columbus Day

By Nicole Dotzenrod
Posted 10/10/2014

Many people know Columbus Day as a holiday from work or school – but more and more people are reluctant to celebrate a holiday commemorating Christopher Columbus, and for good reason.

Columbus is generally known for “discovering” America in 1492, but a lesser-told narrative – and one equally as important – is that Columbus didn’t “discover” the New World, as millions of people already lived here. Columbus’ initiation of Spanish colonization had detrimental consequences for the Native populations of the places he explored: the majority of the native population was destroyed due to diseases such as small pox and environmental changes due to the extraction of resources, or were murdered or enslaved for gold by Columbus and later subsequent European Colonizers.

Today, it is easy to see why Indigenous Americans are reluctant to celebrate the atrocities committed by Columbus against Indigenous Nations of the Caribbean and what is now called Central America. As an alternative to celebrating Columbus Day, many places in America are celebrating Indigenous People’s Day to promote and commemorate the rich history and culture of Native Americans.

The idea of Indigenous People’s Day as an alternative to Columbus Day began in 1977 at the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas, sponsored by the United Nations in Geneva. Since the 1990s, many states and institutions have chosen to rename Columbus Day. Most recently, Seattle, WA declared this week that Columbus Day would be replaced with Indigenous People’s Day in the city.

This year as an alternative to Columbus Day, consider celebrating Indigenous People’s Day, paying respect to the deep culture of Indigenous Native American Peoples of the Western Hemisphere as Columbus’ legacy in the Caribbean became a standard practice of Colonizing Nations when they “re-settled” the Western Hemisphere.