10 Reasons We Should Stop Celebrating Columbus Day

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article was published in 2015. 

The second Monday in October is designated in the U.S. as Columbus Day, commemorating Christopher Columbus’s sighting of the Americas and landing in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492. He did not, however, “discover” the Americas, since people had already been living on the continent for thousands of years, and in any case, the Vikings had visited 500 years earlier. (John Oliver has a wonderful take on this.)

But as we learn more and more about the atrocities that Columbus carried out against the people he found living in the Americas, why do we still celebrate his arrival?

1.  In fact, many of us dont celebrate Columbus Day. Berkeley, California is thought to be the first city to adopt Indigenous People’s Day in 1992. South Dakota has celebrated Native American Day instead of Columbus Day since 1990. In 2014, Seattle and Minneapolis became the first major American cities whose city councils voted to approve a measure recognizing Indigenous People’s Day. 

2.  Since then, 4 states and more than 55 cities across the U.S. have passed resolutions to recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day rather than Columbus Day. 

3.  Columbus was a murderer and a tyrant, which is why we dont want to honor him. Just take a look at some of the horrific acts he committed: according to Laurence Bergreen, a biographer quoted in Vox, after being attacked by over 2,000 natives, Columbus had three “Indian” leaders brought to him and had them publicly beheaded. Another native was also dragged to the middle of his village and the Spaniards “‘cut off his ears’ in retribution for the Indians failing to be helpful to the Spaniards when fording a stream.” 

4.  Still not convinced? Here’s an account of how the natives were first enslaved and then beheaded, when their Spanish captors under Columbus didn’t want to take the time to untie them. Benjamin Keen, who is a historian of the Spanish conquest of the Americas, has found multiple sources confirming accounts of “exhausted Indian carriers, chained by the neck, whose heads the Spaniards severed from their bodies so they might not have to stop to untie them.”

5.  Anti-Columbus sentiment can be found throughout the Americas. In Chile, protesters clashed with police in Santiago during an anti-Columbus Day march organized by Indigenous groups; on the 521-year anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas, activists demanded the return of their ancestral lands and the right to self-determination. In 2002, indigenous people in Guatemala gathered in huge groups across the nation’s highways, thereby shutting them down, to protest the day.

6.  In Spain, October 12 is known as Día de la Hispanidad, or The National Day of Spain. It also coincides with the feast day of Our Lady of the Pillar, patroness of the city of Zaragoza and of Spain. A military parade in the capital, Madrid, is a key part of the celebrations each year. The Prime Minister, along with Spanish royalty, joins a wide array of authorities, who are invited to attend the parade. Other celebrations take place throughout the rest of the country.

7.  In Mexico, October 12 is known as Día de la Raza (Day of the Race). Indigenous groups gather in Mexico City dressed in their community’s traditional outfits, some wearing pre-Columbian clothing and headdresses, and the festivities last all day both in the capital and around the country. However, although viewed as a day of celebration for many, it has also recently been a day chosen for protests, rallies and street marches.

8.  Many other countries celebrate October 12, or the nearest Monday to it. In Argentina, the holiday is known as Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity). In Chile it is called Día del Descubrimiento de Dos Mundos (Day of Discovery of Two Worlds), in Costa Rica it is Día de las Culturas (Day of Cultures), in Uruguay it is Día de las Americas (Pan American Day), and in Venezuela October 12 is the Día de la Resistencia Indígena (The Day of Indigenous Resistance).

9. The United Nations has declared October 12 Spanish Language Day, a day to honor a language that unifies speakers on both sides of the Atlantic. The event was established by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to seek “to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity.”

10.  In the U.S., this holiday, initiated by President Roosevelt in 1937, may not survive at all, as more and more cities and states decide to do away with it. According to the Pew Research Center, it’s already “one of the most inconsistently celebrated U.S. holidays.” Federal employees get the day off, but otherwise, workers in only 23 states receive a paid day off to mark the holiday.

If you agree that it’s time to stop celebrating Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous People’s Day, please sign the petition to our leaders in Washington, demanding that they make this change.

 

299 comments

Dave f
Dave f9 days ago

Signed .

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Dave f
Dave f9 days ago

TFS

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Ann B
Ann B28 days ago

all holidays should b cancelled except birthdays and halloween --all commercial rip offs...no actual spirit involved---and yes i know Halloween should too, but that is my favorite lol

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Thomas J
Thomas J28 days ago

signed

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Olivia M
Olivia Mabout a month ago

signed

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Paulo R
Paulo Rabout a month ago

petition signed. ty

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Georgina Elizab M

petition signed

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Camilla V
Camilla Vagaabout a month ago

thx

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Janis K
Janis Kabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Leo C
Leo Custerabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing!

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