In school, you were probably taught that “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” But as you have grown and learned more about who he was as a person and what he actually did on his voyages, many believe that Christopher Columbus was a founding figure in the World’s history and a major player when examining the founding of America. However, what many do not know is that he actually committed mass atrocity on indigenous populations, decimated cultures and enslaved many, all in the search for spices and gold. Yet, most of the world chooses to ignore this and now, every year in October, we celebrate Columbus Day as a way to honor his bravery and celebrate him as the true founder of America.
This is so incredibly problematic for numerous reasons. However, in my opinion, the most heinous, is that he committed genocide against, and also enslaved, a majority of the native population in, what we know as today, the Bahamas. The indigenous peoples who had their identities erased were called the Guanahani and lived around the islands. Unfortunately little is known about them as a result of this atrocity. Genocides and instances of mass atrocity against indigenous peoples. are common, however, in most of the world, especially around this time and later on. Some would debate that issues of mass atrocities against indigenous peoples continued up until the 1940s and native people in America are still facing problems every day as a result of our ancestor’s actions in the 1700s and 1800s.
Given this information, I think many would agree we owe the ingenious populations around the world a huge apology and that is what Columbus Day should become a day where we can express our apologies to these people who have been hurt so badly by our ancestors’ actions.
By replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day, we would be able to start on the long path that would be us trying to make amends for these faults and work towards leaving a lasting impact on an otherwise tattered reputation. We cannot change the past and cannot undo what has been done but in order to take steps towards a more positive future, one where we can all work together in harmony and really address the issues many of us hold dear, this would be an important first step on this long road towards reconciliation.
Some countries already have some form of Indigenous People’s Day already. For example, Australia has a National Sorry Day on May 26 to recognize the Aboriginal people in Australia and there is also an International Indigenous People’s Day on August 9. Many places in America already celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, Keene being one of them!
By having the US government change this day to honor native people, I think it would set a responsible precedent for other countries too. Many countries that were the perpetrators of serious atrocities, many European countries come to mind, might also follow and try to reconcile with the people, places and cultures they had so deeply affected. This would be a good move and a strong indicator of deep care and sorrow for people in the Americas and around the world who have been affected by issues of forms of colonialism.