Columbus Day is reaching its end as it’s steadily being replaced by Indigenous People’s Day. This seems more than ideal. Why should Columbus and the “discovery” of America be commemorated? If we dig into history and recent findings related to the discovery of the Americas, there are many reasons which demonstrate why this holiday doesn’t represent much.
So far, archeology has proven than Columbus was not the first European to set foot in the new world. This sort of misses the point of claiming its “discovery.” Almost half a millennium before him, a Viking, known as Leif Eriksson, settled in North America. Recent discoveries have led to a site in the island of Newfoundland in the Canadian providence of Newfoundland and Labrador called L’Anse aux Meadows. The site gives important evidence of the Viking influence on the land and of their own relationships with the natives.
Before long, the Vikings were gone, thought to be driven by conflict with the natives. What came next is the most worrisome part of history. Columbus may not have been the first to arrive to the Americas, but by the extension of the word he did “discover” it— bringing awareness to the territory and its riches. Soon, eager Europeans began colonizing and settling their imperialistic way of thought, by claiming the people and the land as if their own.
Columbus and his discovery brought an immense amount of violence and murder. Rapidly, the identity and harmony which the indigenous people of the land lived by, was stolen. They were silenced and striped of their riches—their freedom and peace.
Why, then, should this sort of brutality be celebrated? Well, here is when different states begin to step in and deny such a celebration, incorporating Indigenous People’s Day. Since 1989 states began to embrace this new holiday, fighting against a long history of discrimination. The indigenous people, who honored the land and the animals they shared it with, who suffered and some who were left with no descendants, should be remembered.
Unconsciously, each day, we go about our day on what was once Native American soil. Our constrained land by roads and buildings were once free and in harmony. Today, there are few remains in our society which we can link to the past.
In Madison, we can still hike through Oak Savannas or have a picnic besides a mighty thunderbird rooted in the ground as a mound. However, not much is left. Their culture, once powerful, rich and colorful is now fading away. This is what we must commemorated, their culture and sorrow—not those who brought it in the first place.