One Big Thing: Do you support Indigenous People’s Day replacing Columbus Day?
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What is it?
- Columbus Day commemorates Christopher Columbus and his “discovery” of the Americas. It has also become a day celebrating Italian-American heritage since Columbus was from originally from Italy.
- In more recent years, however, resistance to celebrating Columbus Day has emerged due to his enslavement and decimation of Native American populations in the Caribbean islands.
- For Native Americans in the United States, “celebrating Columbus Day continues a dangerous narrative that erases Native American voices and minimizes the federal government’s attempt at genocide and forced assimilation,” said Rep. Deb Haaland, who is a Native American and represents New Mexico in the U.S House of Representatives.
- On Thursday of last week, the mayor of Columbus, Ohio announced that the city would remove a status of Christopher Columbus outside city hall, prompting many residents to call for a statue of local legend Guy Fieri and rebranding of Columbus as Flavortown.
- Native American populations have also been disproportionately affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic. Statistically, Native Americans have low access to healthcare systems and have been adversely impacted economically as shutdowns have closed casinos and slowed tourism on reservations.
Why is it important?
- Native American tribes are recognized nations by the United States. Throughout U.S. history, the U.S. government signed and often violated treaties with Native American groups in its acquisition of tribal lands. However, in the past decades, Native American nations have used those legally binding treaties to reassert their control over reservations and gain political and economic strength.
- The focus on racism in the United States has intensified in the past month with the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and the ensuing protests throughout the country calling for equality and justice – issues Native Americans support. Many in the community have joined in solidarity.
- States like South Dakota, Alaska, Oregon, Maine and handful of other states have already changed Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day (or a similar name) in recognition of the contributions that Native Americans have made to this country. More states are expected to make the change as support for Indigenous People’s Day continues to grow, particularly at the municipal level.
- Native Americans frequently represent some of the most marginalized groups in the US which has exacerbated by COVID-19. The longer the pandemic and related shutdown lasts, the more Native Americans will feel the virus’s public health and economic effects.
What can you do about it?
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