So, it’s Columbus day… You might want to put on your seatbelt for this one. You wouldn’t think it would be controversial to say that someone who did the things Christopher Columbus did wasn’t a great guy, but we live in weird times. With that in mind, let’s discuss why you’ll probably hear Indigenous Peoples’ Day more and more every year, and Columbus Day less and less.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue. The elementary school version of the story of Columbus day is that an Italian explore saw a bug crawl up a piece of fruit, noticed that it looked like ships coming over the horizon and realized the Earth was round. Armed with this theory, he goes to the Spanish monarchy and purposes an expedition to find a faster way to India, because India had all the best trade goods, but considering you had to sail around all of Africa to get to it, it was extremely far away. The Spanish Queen and King eventually agreed to fund his expedition, he discovered America, thinking it was India and everyone lived happily ever after.
Well, most of that is kinda true, except the end part. Christopher Columbus did make several voyages to the Caribbean, Central, and South America. He never set foot on what most Americans would consider America, and he certainly didn’t discover it. He also didn’t prove the Earth was round nor did he think he was in India, just as an FYI.
He would go on to become a Governor in the Caribbean and to say that he was the worst, would be putting it mildly. Without going into gratuitous detail, let it suffice to say that he decimated the indigenous population, and was brutal to the Spanish colonists as well. Despite all of that, in 1934 Columbus Day became a federal holiday. Since the 1970s the current President of the United States will issue a proclamation about Columbus Day, on or around the holiday. While many of the modern presidents have acknowledged the uglier side of European colonialism, the current one, heretofore, has not. It is a pattern that people are starting to notice and view negatively.
As more and more people realized that Columbus was a monster, celebrating a day in his honor became unbearably distasteful. Because the day is a federal holiday, it can’t just be ignored. Many states have replaced it with other holidays, usually acknowledging the Native Americans or a different, less controversial explorer. Of the different holidays meant to take the place, Indigenous Peoples’ Day seems to have picked up the most traction. It is being adopted by more states pretty much every year.
What Does It Mean for You
Aside from the fact that you may or may not have gotten the day off, and you probably weren’t able to go to the bank, not too much. It’s exceedingly unlikely that the current administration will revoke the holiday’s federal status. How the day is observed at a more local level is more likely to change, but probably in name only. While most people don’t want to actively celebrate a racist butcher, who didn’t even really do most of the things people think they are celebrating him for; for most Americans, the second Monday in October is just another day.