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Rethinking Christopher Columbus

Rethinking Schools asks: “Why rethink Christopher Columbus? Because the Columbus myth is a foundation of children’s beliefs about society. Columbus is often a child’s first lesson about encounters between different cultures and races. The murky legend of a brave adventurer tells children whose version of history to accept, and whose to ignore. It says nothing about the brutality of the European invasion of North America.”

As a federal holiday, Columbus Day has been recognized since 1937. But four states do not celebrate Columbus Day (Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, and South Dakota) and there is a growing trend to commemorate the second Monday in October as Indigeneous Peoples Day. Ironically, this same day is also Canadian Thanksgiving Day.

As of this year 19 cities including Los Angeles, Austin, and Salt Lake City, have joined the 36 cities across the county who already recognize Indigenous Peoples Day rather than Columbus day.

The Indigenous Peoples’ Day movement gained steam in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1992 as a protest against the “Quincentennial Jubilee was organized for Columbus Day. In 2013, the California state legislature considered a bill, AB55, to formally replace Columbus Day with Native American Day, but did not pass it. On August 30, 2017 Los Angeles City Council voted in favor of replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. School districts, colleges and libraries have also begun formally commemorating Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day.

Rethinking Schools reminds us: “We need to listen to a wider range of voices. We need to hear from those whose lands and rights were taken away by those who “discovered” them. Their stories, too often suppressed, tell of 500 years of courageous struggle, and the lasting wisdom of native peoples. Understanding what really happened to them in 1492 is key to understanding why people suffer the same injustices today.”

A Word from the Parliament of the World’s Religions on Indigenous Peoples’ Day 

“We at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, with our office in the United States, rejoice that an increasing number of people in this country have been converted from calling this “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”

Those of us whose ancestors were, whether by choice or not, a part of a colonizing tradition need, especially on this day, to express our deepest apologies to what the colonists have done (and are doing) to Indigenous Peoples across the globe.

Moreover, all of us need to recognize how much poorer we are for not appreciating the kinds of wisdom that are a part of diverse indigenous traditions.

Finally, many of us now want to change in at least two ways: first, to do everything we can to stop the abuse of Indigenous Peoples, their land, their traditions, their wisdom, and their practices; and second, to open our minds and souls to what Indigenous Peoples have to teach us.”

From the Staff of the Parliament of the World’s Religions