Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples' Day? Behind the movement to change the holiday

Today is Columbus Day in the United States, but at the state and local level, many are celebrating other holidays in its place, including around Michigan.

1492: Christopher Columbus leaves Palos de la Frontera, Spain, with three ships. The voyage would lead him to what is now known as the Americas.
1492: Christopher Columbus leaves Palos de la Frontera, Spain, with three ships. The voyage would lead him to what is now known as the Americas.

Morning Musings 🤔

You've probably read my complaints about made up holidays, like "National Cutting Board Day," but I'm actually in favor of more meaningful holidays.

Why not mark great accomplishments and impacts by people, or groups of people, in human history? Holiday declarations are a yearly reminder of those impacts.

For instance, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a yearly reminder to reflect on civil rights in our country, and the movement that pushed us in the right direction. 

We need more days like that. In a busy, fast-moving world, sometimes it's useful and healthy to sit back, remember our past, reflect, and use it to make our future even better.

- Ken Haddad (Have something to say or a topic idea? Contact me: Email | Twitter)


Morning Dive 🏊

In the last decade, many cities - and some states - have replaced Columbus Day with a different holiday, mostly Indigenous Peoples' Day. Some celebrate Veterans instead of Columbus. Some celebrate both Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples' Day.

Just last week, Michigan Gov. Whitmer declared Oct. 14 Indigenous Peoples' Day in the state. The resolution states that Indigenous Peoples Day "shall be used to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous peoples on this land, and to celebrate the thriving cultures and values that the Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and other indigenous peoples contribute to society."

Dozens of other cities and entire states, including Minnesota, Alaska, Vermont and Oregon, have also replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. Hawaii celebrates Discoverers' Day on the second Monday of October. And South Dakota celebrates Native American Day.

How the movement started


Indigenous Peoples Day was first proposed in 1977 by a delegation of Native Nations to the United Nations-sponsored International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas.

South Dakota was the first to mark the change back in 1989. An acknowledgment of the South Dakota Indians came in 1990 when Governor Mickelson and representatives of South Dakota's nine tribal governments proclaimed 1990 a Year of Reconciliation and called for the first Native American Day observance to be held to honor Native Americans.

It was hoped that this acknowledgment would help to inform the general public about Indian heritage and the problems that are confronted by Indians in South Dakota.

It was  later passed in Berkeley, California, in 1992, to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas. Two years later, Santa Cruz, California, instituted the holiday, and in the 2010s, more and more cities and states started to adopt the change.


So what did Columbus really do?

He wasn't the first to discover the New World, the term generally used to refer to the modern-day Americas. Indigenous people had been living there for centuries by the time Columbus arrived in 1492.

He wasn't the first European in the New World, either. Leif Eriksson and the Vikings beat him to it five centuries earlier. But Columbus did pave the way for the "European exploration, exploitation, and colonization of the Americas," according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

While many schoolchildren learn about the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, less appealing details of Columbus' journeys include the enslavement of Native Americans and the spread of deadly diseases.

The indigenous societies of the Americas "were decimated by exposure to Old World diseases, crumbling under the weight of epidemic," historian David M. Perry wrote.

"Columbus didn't know that his voyage would spread diseases across the continents, of course, but disease wasn't the only problem. ... He also took slaves for display back home and to work in his conquered lands."


But there's no doubt that Columbus' voyages "had an undeniable historical impact, sparking the great age of Atlantic exploration, trade and eventually colonization by Europeans," Perry wrote.

Either way -- the bank is closed today.

Chatter 🗣️

Housekeeping 🧹

Hey, if you like this newsletter, let us know. We'd love your feedback. We also offer several other newsletters that probably cater to at least one of your interests -- unless you're only interested in mechanical pencils. We don't have one for mechanical pencils. Sorry.

- Ken Haddad (Have something to say or a topic idea? Contact me: Email | Twitter)

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