For the record, “Columbus Day” wasn’t an officially recognized holiday until 1906, when it became a recognized holiday in Colorado– and it took another thirty years before it was a federal holiday. So it’s not something with a deeply embedded cultural meaning, but America as far as countries go is pretty brand-spankin’ new, so it’s not like ANY of our traditions are old.
However, I think celebrating Columbus Day is wrong. Many historical figures have complicated stories, filled with moments of good and bad, righteous and evil, things worth celebrating and things worth critiquing. Even Mahatma Ghandi had his problems.
Christopher Columbus is not one of those people. Columbus was wholly and totally and irredeemably evil. He did nothing good and nothing worth celebrating. He did not discover America — and it could be argued that not even Leif Erikson was the first— the only thing he did was convince a powerful monarch to give him a lot of ships, men, and weapons so he could go enslave an entire population and steal everything they had.
Anyway, I’ve had a migraine for three days that I’m just now coming onto the other side of, so I’m not going to has that all out. But, one of the reasons why I’m an intersectional feminist is because it’s important to recognize the stories of everyone who has been or still is oppressed, and First Nation people are absolutely in that group in pretty much every conceivable way.
It particularly concerns me because Native American women are at extreme risks when it comes to sexual violence. 1 in 3 Native American women have either been raped or have experienced attempted rape– compared to the 1 in 5 number for the general population of women, and potentially 88% of those assaults will be committed by non-Native Americans. That is a horrifying, frightening reality, and it is extremely important to recognize how the systematic dehumanization of First Nation people plays a significant part in that. I live around a lot of DC football fans, and when I occasionally point out how incredibly racist their team name is, they get mad at me.
Celebrating Columbus Day is just another way that we ignore, dismiss, and forget the atrocities we have put them through– and continue, every day, to put them through.
I wanted to leave you with some further reading on the subject, especially because today’s post is so short.
A very helpful comic from The Oatmeal. (update: it is important to note that I do not agree with the proposed “solution” at the end of this piece, mostly because it ignores the origins of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.)