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It's Past Time to Abolish Columbus Day and Establish Indigenous Peoples' Day in the United States

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/10/12/its-past-time-abolish-columbus-day-and-establish-indigenous-peoples-day-united

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In my work throughout Latin America I have many occasion to set foot into cathedrals and the like. I first wondered what was the purpose? Next it hit me–control. That is the source of “reverence” for Columbus, he is a master symbol among symbols of control. Puke on him and his slave-taking legacy.

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In California, we have our own regional sadist to revere in the “missions” he established to enslave indigenous Californians – of course I mean Father Junipero Serra, honored in countless street names and statues up and down our coastline. If you include the names of missions, which later became names of major cities, it might be impossible to find a square inch of California which is not wrapped in the name of some historic predator, such as Fremont or Stanford.

I don’t quite know what to do about that. Seriously: Were we in California to rechristen every location with a bad name, we wouldn’t be able to figure out which way the railroad tracks are heading.

But we can at least get rid of Columbus monuments, I hope. Let’s face it: Italians getting all worked up in defense of their beloved countryman (?!) is just a very stupid joke by now. There are brilliant riffs on the Italian-American defense of Columbus theme from some comedy shows – that’s about all this bogus cultural wrinkle is good for anymore. There’s no question Columbus accurately represents a quite toxic legacy of genocide. Who can tolerate monuments to genocide?

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Then there’s the genocidal effect of all the goodies flooding into Europe suddenly making a few people quite wealthy and forcing the rural peoples off the land and into the cities, a ready made workforce for the Industrial Revolution. Starhawk’s Dreaming the Dark explores this in detail. A case could be made that the genocide was, in fact, in both the Old and New worlds.
And it continues even now, in Asia and Africa as the Global North exploits both resources and peoples. Wal-Mart, the Big Three car makers, and so many other corporations plotzed themselves when Nixon opened up Red China to trade, seeing not just over a billion people to buy stuff, but a billion people willing to work as slaves to produce shit for Americans to buy. And buy we did, enticed by billions of commercials on the one-eyed monsters telling us we’ll finally be happy if we buy this particular brand of car or this particular brand of blue jeans.
Methinks it would be great if the US decided to celebrate its Thanksgiving(wait, wasn’t this another case of celebrating genocide? Oh dear…)the same time as Canada. As it is now, it’s not a ritual of being thankful for what we have, but one of shopping for shit we don’t need. Wolf down some factory raised turkey and pesticide laced veggies, then head for the mall to buy, buy, buy, forgetting the stuff we bought last year hoping to finally make our kids happy is now in the landfill. October should be safe so far from the annual christmas mania.
Bye Bye Columbus Day, unless it becomes a national day of wailing and confession, a gigantic mea culpa for all the ills we’ve inflicted on other nations and peoples. A day of fasting and tears. The name-Remembrance Day for all the victims and survivors of genocide.

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Over the weekend in Portland Oregon, protestors toppled two bronze statues in the South Park Blocks (Presidents Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt on horseback) ostensibly to protest injustices suffered by Native Americans historically and present day. I use the word ‘ostensibly’ to suggest blame will also be directed at Antifa protestors who toppled other Portland statues during the height of BLM movement.

Most statues toppled during BLM protests were of Confederate leaders and soldiers as objectionable emblems of institutional racism throughout history. Toppled statues in Portland then were of Presidents Washington and Jefferson who were slave holders.

Most people however value statues of leaders for their contribution to the American way of life, rather than to ignore or excuse or even celebrate the wrongful harms committed during their lifetime. It can be argued that the toppling of statues is to protest injustices committed in the present day rather than throughout history. Such statues become become monuments to what’s wrong with this country when the same wrongs continue.

Native Americans today watch their sacred places bulldozed, burial grounds desecrated, water supplies polluted and worse injustices occur despite protests. The toppling of commonly valued statues can be considered payback when the same wrongs continue.

In my opinion, the worst injustice occurring in the US today is homelessness. Efforts to address this national atrocity have been ineffective because the ruling class want the working class to know they too are a paycheck or an impossible medical bill away from being homeless. Portland’s heralded solutions to homelessness come with million dollar price tags for institutionalized settings where the homeless are merely kept out of public view. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is an entirely dishonest member of the ruling class who cares about Portland like Donald Trump cares about America.

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Yes. Abolish Columbus Day! The ultimate insult to the Native, American people is history books still say: " that Columbus discovered America".

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While I agree with the author of the article the sub-title is mistaken. The original intent of instituting Columbus Day as a holiday was not as a monument to white supremacy but instead a disavowal of white supremacy. Therein lies the irony.

“President Franklin Delano Roosevelt officially instituted Columbus Day in 1934, but the idea for the holiday rose in the 1920s, when the Knights of Columbus tried to undercut the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan by emphasizing the role minorities had played in America. In the early 1920s, the organization published three books in a “Knights of Columbus Racial Contributions” series, including The Gift of Black Folk, by W. E. B. Du Bois. They celebrated the contributions of immigrants, especially Catholic immigrants, to America with parades honoring Christopher Columbus. The Knights of Columbus were determined to reinforce the idea that America must not be a land of white Protestant supremacy.”
Heather Cox Richardson
Political historian and teacher

Moreover, before Columbus Day was designated a national holiday it had already been celebrated on the state level including once on the national level. For the 400th anniversary in 1892 of Columbus’ landing, following a lynching in New Orleans where a mob had murdered 11 Italian immigrants, President Benjamin Harrison declared Columbus Day as a one-time national celebration.

In effect, Columbus Day was originally a protest against white supremacy.