Editorial: BIA shouldn't celebrate Columbus Day
"During a session at the recent 66th Annual Convention of the National Congress of American Indians in Palm Springs, Calif., a tribal leader brought up the issue of the BIA celebrating Columbus Day as a holiday and letting workers take the day off. The chair suggested the BIA was not culturally sensitive to tribal communities when it gives special notice to Columbus Day.

Columbus Day in the United States is celebrated Oct. 12, and has been a U.S. federal government holiday since 1934. The holiday was established through long term lobbying efforts from the Italian-American community and the Knights of Columbus, a Christian society. The celebration marks the day when the three ships led by Columbus first saw land in what is commonly known as the New World, or the Americas. Most indigenous and many non-indigenous people find this a rather ironic comment, since there were millions of people already living in what came to be called the Americas by the Europeans.

The international community gathered to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in 1992. However, indigenous peoples in the Americas were highly critical of the celebrations since they viewed Columbus’ voyages as initiating considerable destruction over the next 500 years, including genocide, disease, political subjugation, forced cultural assimilation, enslavement and loss of land.

In the 1990s, some indigenous organizations suggested Columbus Day be recast as a day commemorating the solidarity of indigenous peoples, or a day commemorating the resistance and survival of indigenous peoples. A few cities in California now celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day Oct. 12. The state of South Dakota celebrates Native American Day. Some tribal governments also celebrate Native American Day or recognize their own tribe on that day. Many tribal governments, however, do not take part and further suggest that state and federal governments should not commemorate Columbus Day."

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Editorial: Questioning BIA’s Columbus holiday (Indian Country Today 10/16)