Many on social media were not celebrating Columbus Day, whose premise is to celebrate a seafaring voyage under the helm of Christopher Columbus, a European sailor lost at sea, credited by the West with “discovering” America, a place that had already been inhabited by Indigenous peoples for hundreds of years.
World Indigenous Peoples' Day
U.S. President Donald Trump made sure to honor Columbus, calling him a “skilled navigator and man of faith, whose courageous feat brought together continents and has inspired countless others to pursue their dreams and convictions – even in the face of extreme doubt and tremendous adversity,” according to CNN.
But the movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day is gaining steam as cities such as Los Angeles, Seattle and Denver, Hawaii and Vermont declare the change.
“The establishment of (Indigenous Peoples' Day) is recognizing the trauma people of color have suffered, bringing others to question their knowledge, what people have taught them,” Ja-Rey Kilpatrick said. A junior at Semillas Community Schools who identifies as Afro-Mexican, she performed a traditional dance on the day Los Angeles voted to replace the day.
“My role was important because my ancestors couldn’t practice their traditions and beliefs, so singing in Native languages made me proud of fighting for recognition of Indigenous peoples,” she said.
Antonio Tlaloc Carrillo, also a junior at Semillas Community Schools, said that he wants this day “to be spread across not just the country, but all of the Americas.”
While Columbus Day is celebrated by the U.S. establishment, Indigenous people, and other people of color, have advocated for the legal recognition of Indigenous People's Day to set the record straight. Within their cultures and customs, pre-dating scientific dissemination of the dangers of global climate change and the Paris Accord, is a direct answer to this phenomom occasioned by over-development.
During an interview on Democracy Now!, the late activist and comedian Dick Gregory summed up the story of the United States as Europeans who destroyed Indigenous peoples, referred to them as savages, and characterized themselves as the civilized settlers.
Vast and complex cultural, social and trade relations existed for centuries, if not millenia, between Indigenous peoples in what would become known as the United States of America a mere 241 years ago and African and Asian people. This contact, pre-dating Columbus' questionable journey, is illustrated in a book titled, "The African Presence in Ancient America: They Came Before Columbus," by Ivan Van Sertima.
While his work was slammed by a New York Times book review, deemed as “ignorant rubbish,” Van Sertima's research was praised in a letter to the editor by Clarence Weiant, a Ph.D. in archeology who specialized in ceramics.
"Van Sertima's work is a summary of six or seven years of meticulous research based upon archaeology, Egyptology, African history, oceanography, astronomy, botany, rare Arabic and Chinese manuscripts, the letters and journals of early American explorers, and the observations of physical anthropologists,” Weiant said.
He added that having been “immersed in Mexican archaeology for some 40 years, and who participated in the excavation of the first giant heads, I must confess, I am thoroughly convinced of the soundness of Van Sertima's conclusions," he wrote.
Aaron Martin, an Indigenous man hailing from the Fernandeno-Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, best sums up the importance of a national holiday celebrating Indigenous peoples, saying that he previously “hated” the holiday devoted to Columbus.
However, he said that Indigenous Peoples' Day fills him with pride because “the truth is, Indigenous people were here first, and they shouldn't honor something that was an attempted genocide.”