Columbus statue in Chicago’s Grant Park
Published October 9, 2017
Last year Chicago celebrated Indigenous People’s Day in tandem with Columbus Day. This year the State of Illinois designated Indigenous People’s Day on the last Monday in September through House Bill 0132. In response, the American Indian Center of Chicago issued the following statement, “The American Indian Center was surprised to learn of this new bill and are disappointed that it passed. Indigenous people were not consulted during the crafting and passing of this bill. We believe that all peoples deserve respect, public comment and consultation in regards to holidays that affect us as a community. We view this as an insult and a threat to current progress made towards recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day on the Second Monday of October and a flagrant act of disrespect toward our community”.
Columbus Day celebrates a man who by his very own words describes his views on the Indigenous peoples of his time. In The Diario of Christopher Columbus (October 11-15, 1492), he states, “They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”
Society needs to take a look at who they are glorifying and truly understand all of the implications of what that action means. We need to honor every life that suffered at the hands of Christopher Columbus by recognizing their contributions and memorializing their lives.
Replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day is not about culture. It’s about celebrating human rights.
Melyssa Navis is the board secretary of the American Indian Center of Chicago.