By Richard Ray:
Who doesn’t love a 3 day weekend, but I think it is really long overdue that we at least re-name Columbus Day.
I know that this may be a laughable request during a Trump administration where finding any level of empathy is at a premium if even available at all, but we are long overdue in renaming the federal holiday, which is not even accepted and celebrated by all states.
This is in no way a slight or attack on Italians, but let’s keep it real, Christopher Columbus did not “Discover” America. First, you cannot claim to discover a place that already exists with indigenous people already living there. That is one of the problems with the writing of history. We know that events took place, but how they are memorialized or told ultimately influences what people know about subjects and how they ultimately may feel as well.
People like to argue that you cannot change or get rid of history, but that is a complete and utter falsehood, particularly when that re-telling of history was wrong or incomplete to begin with. I am no historian, but like other figures and events, the story of Christopher Columbus is complex. While he did not “discover” America, he is largely credited with opening the route from Europe to the America’s and Caribbean for trade (including slavery) and colonizing (though already occupied).
The importance of his voyages and their subsequent impact cannot be negated, but knowing more, including the destructive impact on indigenous peoples highlights a need to write history fully and accurately. While history needs to be told the older flawed characters of this present nation’s past do not necessarily need to be celebrated or memorialized once an accurate, complete and un-emotional re-telling of history is made.
A few states like South Dakota have already taken the initiative, but Columbus Day should be honored (because no one wants to get rid of a 3 day weekend) but renamed as Indigenous People Day. Our nation’s history actually starts with the indigenous people that lived on the continent for the thousands of years prior to Columbus’s 1492 discovery or that of Leif Erikson and the Vikings 500 years prior. This does not diminish the telling of Columbus and the importance of his journey in shaping America (good and bad) to what it is today, but any honoring should really be directed at the history of those that truly came first in America and the Caribbean.
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