Saturday, 13 October 2012

Addressing the Legacy of Columbus Day

Some time in mid-October various permeations of “celebrations” of “Columbus Day” occur. These are meant to commemorate the landing of Columbus in 1492 on a small island near the American continents. This is not seen as a day of celebration, however, by many indigenous peoples, and others who believe that observances of the day as a celebratory one of European colonial aspirations are appropriate. Such a view is seen as obscuring the brutal acts aimed at indigenous peoples which often had a single intent of removing or destroying indigenous groups from desired lands.

Many places now offer a different view of this day. South Dakota has replaced it with “Native American Day.” Berkeley, California observes Indigenous Peoples Day.

Elsewhere efforts are made to change Columbus Day observances to ones which recognise indigenous peoples. Students are promoting this change at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Some events focus on trying to educate people about another view of the events that began in 1492, replacing a politically correct gloss of a holiday with facts and figures aimed at revealing a perhaps uncomfortable reality hidden behind myths.

Other commentary points out that although the events in 1492 may seem to be in the dim and misty past, their effects continue into the present day.

Perhaps the truest lesson from the recognition of “Columbus Day” is to realise that while the past cannot be undone, certainly its effects in the present and future can and must be not only recognised but addressed. A focus on what followed from an October day in 1492 reveals there is much need to address its legacy.

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