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Opinion: Why Natives must reject Columbus Day
Friday, October 5, 2007
Filed Under: Opinion

"In Colorado, we know something about Columbus Day. We have been working for the past 18 years to dismantle this anti-Indian celebration. Columbus Day was born in Colorado in 1907, the first state to designate the holiday. Over the past 18 years, we have learned a lot about Columbus Day - its origins, its true meanings and its importance to U.S. identity and persistent anti-Indian racism.

As a national holiday, Columbus Day has virtually nothing to do with honoring Italian heritage or culture, and it is not about celebrating mutually held values of decency, respect or justice. Columbus Day celebrates two critical developments integral to the establishment and advancement of the United States. First, it celebrates invasion and domination, especially of indigenous peoples' territories; second, and much more importantly, it celebrates the invention and the legal institutionalization of the ''doctrine of discovery.''

Columbus Day has become the U.S. holiday that celebrates the imperialist redemption of America from Indian ''savagery.'' Johnson v. M'Intosh becomes the necessary legal reinforcement to salve the conscience of America for the theft of a hemisphere. Columbus Day has become the mask that allows America to pretend that it can justify the taking of other peoples' homelands. Luther Standing Bear wrote in 1933 that ''The man from Europe is still a foreigner and an alien. And he still hates the man who questioned his path across the continent.'' The United States has created Columbus Day to rationalize its historical crimes against indigenous peoples.

If Native people do not challenge the fundamental premise of the ''doctrine of discovery,'' as celebrated every year through Columbus Day, then the racist foundation upon which all federal Indian law and policy is constructed will remain intact. We see the ideology of domination carried to this hemisphere by Columbus playing out every year all over Indian country. We see it in the level of Indian incarceration, in the loss of religious freedom cases, in Indian child welfare cases where non-Indian courts ignore the law, in treaty cases where the United States ignores international standards, in international practice where the United States voted against the adoption of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and in the Cobell trust fund case where the United States refuses to account for tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars that are owed to Individual Indian Money trust accounts."

Get the Story:
Glenn Morris: How Columbus Day harms American Indians (Indian Country Today 10/5)

Another Opinion:
Editorial: Columbus fray no holiday (Indian Country Today 10/5)

Relevant Links:
Transform Columbus Day -

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