Today is the observance of Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples Day, likely depending on your location.
Columbus Day was first observed in 1866, and made a federal holiday in 1934 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It's observance has been fixed on the second Monday in October since 1971. Primarily it is a bank and federal agency holiday, with schools frequently celebrating as well. The holiday officially celebrates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492 and is and has been celebrated not only in the United States, but across Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean, Italy, and Spain.
Increasingly, there has been a push to distance the holiday from a celebration of Christopher Columbus. From an appropriate outcry of both Columbus and other European's actions against the indigenous population, to concern over Columbus' character, slavery, and other treatment of the native people, to the question of celebrating a "discovery" which had been accomplished by others before and of a land that was already populated. This movement is pushing for a celebration of an Indigenous Peoples or Native Peoples Day. A day to celebrate the indigenous peoples of America and commemorates their shared history and culture. This holiday began in 1989 in South Dakota as a counter-celebration to Columbus Day, but is growing in popularity and support.
I'm appreciative of and sympathetic to the Indigenous peoples Day movement, and would be happy to see it overtake the day. There should be a time and a way of celebrating and recognizing those people who were stewards of this land long before our families ever thought of coming here. And our history with and general treatment of them should be a national shame which we should be seeking to repair. An opportunity to celebrate their cultures, to learn from them, and to honor them is a small step in that direction.
And while Columbus did not "discover" America, there is reason to recognize his contribution to world history. The larger opening of the "Old World" to the "New World". The connection of these two continents to the growing world population and facilitation of trade that it sparked. Particularly with food. For a better discussion of this history, I point you to one of the blogs I follow, here.
So, whatever you are celebrating, I hope you are enjoying the day and remembering this momentous change in world history. Remembering the people of this land, and the impact they have made. And remembering the good and the bad of those who forever changed the course of these continents. And to plan for our future as a more connected whole.
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