Russell Stevenson: Why we must support Indigenous People's Day

Tribal members celebrated in October 2014 after the city council in Seattle, Washington, approved Indigenous Peoples' Day. Photo from Chris Stearns / Facebook

A bill to change the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day failed in the Utah Legislature this session. Historian and educator Russell Stevenson explains why we shouldn't honor Christopher Columbus:
The Columbian expedition came with a cost, profound and global in import. When Columbus arrived on the island he called Hispaniola (present-day Cuba), he did not come with benign motives. Only a few months earlier, Columbus had visited Cabo Verde where he had seen indigenous African slavery at work. When he arrived in the Caribbean, his stated and unambiguous agenda was the enslavement of indigenous Americans. Shortly after his arrival, he wrote King Ferdinand and Isabella that they could “take all [the Taino slaves] to Castile or keep them enslaved on the island, because 50 men could control them all.” But above all, he sought for gold: “Gold is most excellent,” he said. “Gold is treasure, and he who possesses it does all he wishes to in this world.”

More, Columbus established the encomienda—a system of compulsory labor that entitled Spanish settlers to an established amount of labor from indigenous communities. Those who owned access to these labors held the commission to “Christianize” these communities in exchange for their labor.

In subsequent travels to the New World, a friend and colleague, Bartolome De Las Casas, had traveled with Columbus in hopes of becoming rich. Casas arrived, took some slaves, and established himself as a member of Hispaniola’s elite. For over a decade, he was a complicit participant in various acts of violence committed against them.

Get the Story:
Russell Stevenson: Support Indigenous People's Day (The Deseret News 3/5)

Also Today:
Indigenous Peoples Day bill fails in Utah Senate (The Deseret News 3/2)
Senate blocks effort to rename Columbus Day after Indigenous Peoples (The Salt Lake Tribune 3/2)

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