On Oct. 10, 2016, many people celebrated Christopher Columbus Day, which honored the explorer for discovering North America, as a part of a 400-year-old tradition. However, since the 1990s, there has been a growing movement against this holiday. While it is true that Christopher Columbus was an explorer, he didn’t actually discover North America. The person, rather people, who discovered North America were Native Americans, whom have been here for centuries before Columbus came. In 1992, Berkeley, Calif. was the first city in the U.S. to celebrate what they called Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of Christopher Columbus Day.
Indigenous People’s Day is replacing Christopher Columbus Day for an expanding, but still much smaller group of people. It is important that Indigenous Peoples’ Day be brought into more consideration within our society to ensure the representation of Native Americans. Although Appleton itself does not celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Lawrence does.
Many students acknowledge the holiday and its meaning. “I think it’s rightfully replacing Christopher Columbus Day. It makes more sense and empowers a lot more people,” said freshman Rrita Osmani. Lawrence University Native Americans (LUNA) put on a series of events throughout this past week to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
“Indigenous Peoples’ Day was awesome on campus,” said junior and LUNA Vice-President Lauren McLester-Davis. “Many people were at the events hosted throughout the week.”
However, there is still some confusion as to what Indigenous Peoples’ Day really is. “No, I don’t know what it is,” replied freshman Biju Rajbhandari when asked if she knew what the holiday was. Even so, people who might not know a lot about the holiday were still supportive of the idea of it. “Yes, I’ve sort of heard about it,” said freshman Adrian Birge. “I think the process is a good idea because Christopher Columbus wasn’t really a great person. I think it’s good to celebrate the Native Americans that were repressed by the Europeans.”
Like Lawrence, cities across the nation have taken to celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day. While there have been changes in many local, McLester-Davis believed that there was still a lot of work to do regarding the holiday. “It should be recognized at the national level,” said McLester-Davis. “I think it’s great that cities recognize Native Americans in their area on this day, but the nation as a whole should acknowledge it as well.”
Additionally, there is still a lot of work to be done in the U.S. to ensure that Native Americans can be fully represented. The peaceful protests in North Dakota for the Dakota Access Pipeline protests that occurred during Indigenous Peoples’ Day this year ended with many people being arrested. This does not give Native Americans the ability to rightfully stand up for their culture and their land.
As a student body, it is important for us to keep up the Lawrence tradition of representing and celebrating all cultures here, especially underrepresented ones such as the Native American heritage and narratives.
“[Indigenous Peoples’ Day] is a reclaiming of a really bad chapter in history that not many people know of and not many schools teach about,” said freshman Jessenia Zelaya. “I think it’s a great way to educate others and to empower the native people.”
Having LUNA as a resource at Lawrence is a great opportunity to become more educated about the Native American culture and heritage. “[It’s a] supportive and educational group for both native and non-native students,” stated Lauren McLester-Davis. “There are weekly meetings on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall, Room 114. Everyone is encouraged to come.”
So, next year on the second Monday of October, will you help Indigenous Peoples’ Day become recognized?