In States and Cities, Celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day Continues to Spread
"That the colonization of the Americas made possible by Columbus was both cruel and tragic is not a matter of debate. The history is settled."
In a trend that challenges the construction of Christopher Columbus as a benevolent 15th Century explorer who "discovered" the New World while also lifting up the stories and struggles of native peoples in North America and beyond, the celebration of Indigenous People's Day continues to spread this year as increasing numbers of states and cities adopt the holiday.
As Time magazine tracked the growing number of municipalities, states, and college campuses where Indigneous People's Day is officially recognized, the social media hashtag offered a place for people from across the U.S. to note why Columbus Day remains problematic when it erases the bloodshed and colonization the resulted from the historic arrival in 1492:
Among the latest to recognize Indigenous People's Day were Milwaukee County in Wisconsin and both the city and county of Los Angeles in California.
Writing in the LA Times on Monday, Steven W. Hackel, a professor of history at UC Riverside, championed the decision by local governments in his state.
"That the colonization of the Americas made possible by Columbus was both cruel and tragic is not a matter of debate," write Hackel. "The history is settled."
The arrival of the Italian explorer, notes Hackel, "ushered in one of the greatest injustices in human history: the wholesale transfer of wealth and lands from native peoples to Europeans; the unprecedented depopulation of vast swaths of the Americas as European diseases reduced native populations by 90%; and the violent oppression of indigenous culture and beliefs, as Spanish conquistadors and missionaries sought to convert indigenous peoples into servile laborers and observant Catholics."
Even though California was far from anywhere he ever visited, Hackel continues, "the shadow cast by Columbus reached all the way to our shores, and his namesake holiday is a particular affront to Californians whose ancestors suffered as a result."
In Wisconsin, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, in their proclamation recognized that indigenous peoples lived in their local area"long before the first European explorers reached the region" and lamented how early European colonists "decimated" native populations across the Caribbean and what is now the Americas with with "enslavement, execution, and disease."
"I'm incredibly proud that Milwaukee County is officially recognizing and appreciating the contributions of native thought, culture, and technology in our society," County Executive Chris Abele said Monday in proclaiming the day as Indigenous Peoples Day.