Columbus Day Controversy


Morgan Moomey, Co-Editor-in-Chief

October 12 has traditionally been observed as Columbus day since 1934. In 1971, Columbus Day was changed to the second Monday of October. Many indigenous people took Columbus Day as a day to celebrate their heritage with the first organized celebration taking place in 1977. Since then, many states in the country have recognized the day as a holiday. South Dakota, the state with the third-largest Native American population, was the first state to do so in 1989. 

Although Columbus Day is a federal holiday, many state governments choose not to observe the holiday.  As many as 130 cities across the country have abandoned Columbus Day altogether to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. On October 8, 2021, President Biden commemorated Indigenous Peoples’ Day with a proclamation. He said, “Now, therefore, I, Joesph R. Biden Jr., President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim October 11, 2021, as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.  I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.” 

The controversy behind Columbus Day stems from some groups arguing that Columbus day glorifies the “discovery” that lead to the stealing of Native American land, the spread of illness and disease, the genocide of Native American people and eventually slavery. The day honors Christopher Columbus as a discoverer, rather than a colonizer. People question, though, how Christopher Columbus “discovered” land that already had millions of people living and thriving on it. 

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is important because instead of ignoring the tragic influence Columbus’s arrival had on the Native American people, it brings awareness to it. This awareness also allows citizens to honor Native Americans for their resilience and serves as a reminder of what these people have been through. It also celebrates Native American culture and recognizes Native American contributions to American society.

As long as citizens of the United States recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day along with Columbus Day, the United States is heading in the right direction. Indigenous Peoples’ Day helps American citizens reflect on the past tragedy in hopes to prevent it in the future.