I wanted to post this last Monday (since it was Columbus Day in most of the U.S.), but I didn't have time. However, I wanted to still talk about it this week.
In South Dakota, we do not celebrate Columbus Day - we celebrate Native American Day. The reason for this seems simple: 10% of our population is Native American and the legislature wanted to acknowledge them instead of Columbus. However, the meaning of it goes even deeper.
When we celebrate Columbus Day, what are we celebrating? For most of us, we are taught in our schools that Columbus "discovered" America and it lead to the great migration out of Europe starting with the Jamestown group followed shortly by the Mayflower. This sounds reasonable right? Maybe not.
Communication is all about the language that we use. I've always felt that the term 'Indian' was incorrect when talking about the native people of the Americas. They are not Indian, people from the country of India are Indian. However, because of Columbus and the people that followed, our history books have labeled the indigious people of the Americas as 'Indian.' In fact, here in South Dakota, it is politically correct to say 'Indian Country' when talking about the reservations.
But this issue goes beyond communication. When we study Columbus, history books ignore a great deal of what he did. I won't get into it and you can make your own determinations, but let's just say that it was not what one would consider a christian thing to do. Because of this history, there is a group that is now working to change our minds when it comes to columbus day. They are called "Reconsider Columbus Day."
While we might think of Columbus day as just another day on our calendar that we don't really pay attention to and most people still have to work on, what are we communicating when we do still have it as a national holiday? Are we communicating the achievements of Columbus? That he set up the expansion of settlements that allowed the nation of the United States to exist? Or are we celebrating something else?
I don't usually get too political here - politics is a dangrous pool that can drown you faster than the Mississippi - but living in South Dakota, this is an issue that I've seen first hand. Check out the video below and go to the Reconsider Columbus Day's website - even check out an article from Al Neuharth (who is from South Dakota) of the USA Today - and let me know what you think. Should we change Columbus Day to Native American Day? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts - I know mine are affected by where I live and my work with Native Americans in the classroom, so I'd like to see what you think.