In 2019, Maine, New Mexico, and Vermont became the latest in a growing list of states who renamed Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This was largely owed to the long overdue acknowledgment that Christopher Columbus was not, in fact, the first to discover America. This acknowledges the presence of a grand number of diverse and thriving native tribes who were subsequently enslaved, murdered, and exposed to fatal diseases through further European colonization.
According to Anthony Tamez-Pochel, a Cree and Lakota activist, celebrating Columbus Day is akin to celebrating an individual who doesn’t really warrant celebration.
“For us to celebrate a man who’s done these horrible atrocities against indigenous people, to me, it’s a slap in the face…This isn’t a way to erase our history or erase what was done because we want to make sure what happened is taught. But the United States has a history of celebrating people that shouldn’t be celebrated. We shouldn’t celebrate people that have committed genocide,” Tamez-Pochel emphasized.
And truly, doesn’t that make sense? After all, you can be proud of the place you call home whilst acknowledging a problematic past. Surely that’s the purest form of patriotism; to hold your home accountable to a higher standard of behavior?
To alter the semantics surrounding Columbus Day by renaming it in honor of the population already present — whose lives were so deeply altered when Christopher Columbus “discovered” America — is the right call. We cannot allow a history based on violence to go unacknowledged.
And so, in this short video courtesy of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver asks the important question we all need answered: why is Columbus Day still a thing?