To many Americans, Columbus Day isn’t much more than it’s textbook definition — the day that Christopher Columbus “sailed the ocean blue,” discovered The New World and we get a day off for it. It’s learned this way, advertised this way and celebrated this way by many people because this is the version we heard in school for generations. But as it turns out, textbooks don’t always tell the entire truth.
A quick Google search or visit to history.com will reveal all of Columbus’s controversies such as the enslavement, torture, rape and genocide of hundreds of thousands of Indigenous Peoples.
To many Native Americans the existence of the holiday itself is an insult, celebrating ideologies and people that oppressed them. These controversies have created an uproar in response to the way Columbus viewed by Americans and taught in school .
Mackenzie Foster, a senior at the University of Denver said that the version she learned was a version of “white-washing”: the glossing over or covering up of scandals and crimes by white people through biased presentation.In fact, there is evidence of early settlements by vikings and Native Americans in the areas that Columbus DID “discover” which was in fact, not North America but Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Some historians feel that Columbus didn’t discover the Americas, he just paved the way for it to be colonized while wiping out Natives in the process.
Many Native Americans have protested or moved to abolish Columbus Day. So far, 9 cities have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day — most recently Denver, Colorado, one of the birthplaces of the celebration.
Ironically named the “Pioneers,” some University of Denver students don’t believe that Columbus Day is a big issue among Natives or aren’t really concerned with the holiday. While Denver has already replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples day, some say that it was never that important to begin with.
“I was never really taught that Columbus Day was important. When I think about Columbus Day, I don’t think, ‘wow, what a disgrace to Native people,’ but I think that if you are a Native person, that is something that would come into your mind,” said sophomore Madie Sweet.
However, many students at the University of Denver believe that the holiday should be abolished in every state.
The DU Native Student Alliance has been very active and vocal about Native American rights and representation on campus. They organize a celebration for Indigenous Peoples’ Day every year, host powwows and most recently protested the Dakota Access Pipeline in downtown Denver.
Foster believes, “If it is a holiday, it should be Indigenous Peoples’ Day because I truly feel that you should pay your respect to those people and how much they originally suffered. I’d much rather think about that than some douchebag who sailed to a continent and claimed it was his.”