This year marks the first year that Melrose will be celebrating Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day.
More and more communities, and even some entire states, are making this change. Columbus Day is still the official federal holiday and is on the books as such on the state level in Massachusetts as well.
In other words, even though local cities and towns operate within the state and federal system, they can opt to change the name and direction of the holiday within the bounds of their own communities.
It is no secret that I think this is a good idea. It is a long time in coming too. Serious opposition to Columbus Day began in the early 1960s and is only seeing fruition today.
The seeds of the genocide of native people that were sown with the arrival of Columbus in the arrogantly named “New World” are well known. The native communities that welcomed Columbus and his crew were completely eliminated in quite brutal fashion within a generation or two.
The notion that Columbus “discovered” the “new world” is a misnomer as well. We know now that other Europeans had been to North America long before him. More importantly, you can only “discover” something that no one has seen before. The fact that the island of Guanahani (now called the Bahamas) where Columbus landed was filled with people means that it was “discovered” centuries earlier by the people who were living there!
You can’t be welcomed by native people and then say you’ve discovered their island any more than I might say, after visiting Florida for the first time, that I “discovered” a never before seen place called “Miami.”
There are so many other figureheads in the rich history of Italian culture that would better represent the Italian people and their rightful pride. And I, for one, think it is great that a separation is happening between Italian American pride and the travesty of Columbus.
The switch to Indigenous People’s Day (something that has been recognized within our United Church of Christ for decades, by the way), allows for an honest assessment of history, an occasion to confess the sins of European colonialism, and better appreciate the beauty and current struggles of Native American people today.
I applaud this move in Melrose. It is a great decision and I hope that this initiative becomes even more widespread.
See you in church,