Tag Archives: Columbus Day

Beyond Columbus Day: Changing the Name Is Just the First Step

Rene Roman Nose addresses the crowd during a celebration marking Indigenous Peoples' Day at the Daybreak Star Cultural Center on October 13, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. Earlier that afternoon, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed a resolution designating the second Monday in October to be Indigenous Peoples' Day. (David Ryder / Getty Images)

Rene Roman Nose addresses the crowd during a celebration marking Indigenous Peoples’ Day at the Daybreak Star Cultural Center on October 13, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. Earlier that afternoon, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed a resolution designating the second Monday in October to be Indigenous Peoples’ Day. (David Ryder / Getty Images)

By Jacqueline KeelerTruthout

On Wednesday, October 3, the Cincinnati city council joined a growing trend when it voted to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It is now one of more than 70 cities across the country to do so. The first was Berkeley, California, which adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1992, in recognition of the 500–year anniversary of the European arrival in the Western Hemisphere and the ensuing devastation to Indigenous nations already here in what became known as the Americas.

Other cities that have made the change include Los Angeles, Seattle and Phoenix, as well as states like Minnesota, South Dakota and Alaska, which have significant Native American and Alaskan Native populations. In 2017, the island country of Trinidad and Tobago made the change after a statue of Columbus was splattered in blood-colored paint. A grassroots group called the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project posted an explanation for the vandalism on Facebook at the time, explaining that the painting was soaked in red to protest the celebration of the “Genocidal Genovese Sailor” who “decimated the first peoples of the Americas, destroyed their way of life, then turned around and denied their humanity.”

There are rumors of more cities, including Dallas, Texas, following suit by today. More than 90 different entities (including cities, counties, colleges, universities, states and one country) have changed from honoring Columbus to honoring Indigenous people — at least in name — since 1990.

“I think history tells us that Christopher Columbus was not a good representation of the kind of people we’d want to value and appreciate,” said Chris Seelbach, a Cincinnati councilman, when explaining his vote. He also tweeted, “We can’t re-write history, but we can acknowledge the millions of people who didn’t need to be ‘discovered.’”

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Jacqueline Keeler is a Diné/Ihanktonwan Dakota writer. Her book The Edge of Morning: Native Voices Speak for the Bears Ears is available from Torrey House Press and the forthcoming Standing Rock to the Bundy Standoff: Occupation, Native Sovereignty, and the Fight for Sacred Landscapes will be released next year.

Christopher Columbus: No Monuments for Murderers

“Twenty-five years ago, I wrote an article, “Once Upon a Genocide,” reviewing the major children’s literature about Columbus. My conclusion was that these books teach young readers that colonialism and racism are normal.”

The world is still sliced in two between the worthy — the owning classes, the corporate masters, the generals — and the nobodies. The invaded, the owned, the bombed, the poisoned, the silenced.


A New York Times article, following the white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the murder of anti-racist activist Heather Heyer, described the growing calls to remove monuments that celebrate the Confederacy. The article went on to cite some who balk, however, when “the symbolism is far murkier, like Christopher Columbus.”

But there is nothing murky about Columbus’ legacy of slavery and terrorism in the Americas. The record is clear and overwhelming. The fact that The New York Times could report this with such confidence — adding that “most Americans learn rather innocently, in 1492 [Columbus] sailed the ocean blue until he discovered the New World” — means that educators and activists still have much work to do.

In fact, Christopher Columbus launched the trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1494, when he sent back at least two dozen enslaved Taínos, including children, to Spain. In February of that year, Columbus dispatched 12 of his 17 ships from the Caribbean back to Spain with a letter to be delivered to the king and queen by Antonio de Torres, captain of the returning fleet.

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Uprooting Colonialism: The Limitations of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

From Indigenous Action:

Declarations, Disconnect, & Decolonial Recuperation

As momentum has accelerated for occupying forces to issue declarations of “Indigenous Peoples’ Day (IPD),” we can’t help but feel disconnected from the revelry.

Aside from psychic solace, if the state dismantles these statues and proclaims Indigenous Peoples’ Days, what do we actually achieve if the structures and systems rooted in colonial violence remain intact? Is it merely political posturing or window dressing to diminish liberatory agitations? Our senses are heightened as most re-brandings of Columbus Day into IPD appear to whitewash ongoing colonial legacies.

The statistics are all too familiar: Indigenous Peoples in the “U.S.” are the ethnic group that faces the highest police murder rate, the highest rates of incarnation, homelessness, and sexual violence.

So yes, we have very good reason to be skeptical of symbolic gestures.

We’re all for removing colonial symbols and nationalistic myths, so long as structures such as colonialism and racism go along with them. Problem is they are not. These edicts are readily embraced by their advocates as “steps in the right direction” for Indigenous interests, yet—as we’ll assert here—only serve to calcify colonial rule. What else are we to glean from superficial declarations handed down by occupying governing bodies?

Decolonial aspirations are stunted with liberal cosmetology if nothing concrete is done to address historical and ongoing anti-Indigenous brutality. This is an insidious conciliatory process of decolonial recuperation that is rooted in cultural and symbolic change primarily fixated on transforming social stature. It fails to meaningfully confront and transform social power.

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Fall 2017 (v1.0)

Edits and contributions by
Indigenous Action Media Collective & friends


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Dismantling Columbus and the Power of the Present

Chad Browneagle, Shoshone/Spokane, joins the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Photo: Jaida L Grey Eagle)

Chad Browneagle, Shoshone/Spokane, joins the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Photo: Jaida L Grey Eagle)

By Jaskiran Dhillon and Siku Allooloo, Truthout

Though Christopher Columbus never set foot in what is now the United States, Columbus Day is hailed as a symbol of the founding of the country. And without question, his arrival unleashed the Christian Doctrine of Discovery — a colonial invention of European international law that legitimated genocide, enslavement and the expropriation of Indigenous homelands. This paved the way for violent settler colonies like the United States to dominate “the Americas.” Rejecting Columbus Day is about dismantling this legacy, as well as challenging historical representations that erase Indigenous peoples’ lived experience and make colonial narratives about the creation of the US seem both natural and inevitable. But it is also about more than that.

Instead of celebrating Columbus’s symbolic role in the founding of the United States, we can reposition him as a founding source of colonial exploitation, which continues to this day. Recasting our view in this way reveals the contemporary forms of settler colonialism threaded through social and political life in the US. The growing movement to critically interrogate Columbus Day is not simply to acknowledge the atrocities committed by Columbus and his contemporaries. It is twofold: to affirm the continual presence of Indigenous peoples, and to advocate in support of present-day efforts to eradicate state violence against Indigenous lands and bodies, including the return of ancestral territories. Such an interrogation challenges an innocuous and expressly historical commemoration of Columbus Day, which relegates both colonial atrocities and Indigenous peoples to things of the past.

Centering Indigenous experience and urgent concerns is not a plea for inclusion in US society. It is about making visible the reality of systemic violence and injustice that is part of everyday life for Indigenous communities. It’s also about exposing the inescapable, ongoing fact of settler complicity in reproducing these dynamics.It is a demonstration of our active presence, as well as a call for people to face the political moment in which we find ourselves. Moreover, it’s a call to meaningfully engage the ways that Indigenous nations are raising fundamental, critical questions about justice, freedom and the future of the planet.

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Abolish Columbus Day Campaign

From the Zinn Education Project: Teaching A People’s History:

As we write, we are witnessing an inspiring struggle playing out in North Dakota as Indigenous people and allies are attempting to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Dave Archambault, chairperson of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, stated, “This is a corporation that is coming forward and just bulldozing through without any concern for tribes.” The “bulldozing” of Indigenous lives, Indigenous lands, and Indigenous rights all began with Columbus’s invasion in 1492.

It is time to stop celebrating the crimes of Columbus and stand in solidarity with the Indigenous people who demand an end to Columbus Day. Instead of glorifying a person who enslaved and murdered people, destroyed cultures, and terrorized those who challenged his rule, we seek to honor these communities demanding sovereignty, recognition, and rights. We encourage schools to petition their administration and for communities to introduce legislation to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. Below is information and resources to join the campaign to Abolish Columbus Day.


Deceptive. Greedy. Murderer. Racist… Hero Who “Discovered” America?

Recently, eight U.S. cities have repealed Columbus Day. The holiday, however, remains a federally recognized holiday.

Recently, eight U.S. cities have repealed Columbus Day. The holiday, however, remains a federally recognized holiday.

Why More States, Cities Need to Repeal Columbus Day

By Sarah Sunshine Manning, Indian Country Today Media Network

Deceptive. Greedy. Murderer. Racist. Not exactly characteristics of a hero, and certainly not the makings of a man worthy of a national holiday.

Jig’s up, America. Christopher Columbus was a genocidal madman. America’s first and original terrorist. And as our global consciousness and awareness of humanity expands, it is time we give up defending Christopher Columbus as anything but otherwise.

Indigenous people have been protesting the Columbus Day holiday for decades. And for some, efforts have successfully resulted in change.

In 2014, the cities of Seattle and Minneapolis successfully abolished Columbus Day, replacing it with Indigenous Peoples Day. And recently, eight more cities have successfully made the change, too: Albuquerque, New Mexico; Lawrence, Kansas; Portland, Oregon; St. Paul, Minnesota; Bexar County, Texas; Anadarko, Okalahoma; Olympia, Washington; and Alpena, Michigan.

Yet it was actually decades earlier, in 1990, that the State of South Dakota made the first waves, declaring the second Monday in October, as Native American Day.  South Dakota is currently the only state to have eliminated Columbus Day.

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RELATED: Who Could Possibly Be in Favor of Columbus Day?

The REAL History Of Christopher Columbus

From The Young Turks

Monday, October 12th is Columbus Day, which we have celebrated in this country since the eighteenth century… and that’s probably long enough. When you find out the actual facts of what Columbus did when he got to America, you’ll find one of the darkest chapters in American history. Cenk Uygur and John Iadarola (Think Tank), hosts of the The Young Turks, break it down. Tell us what you think in the comment section below.

“Second, Columbus wasn’t a hero. When he set foot on that sandy beach in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492, Columbus discovered that the islands were inhabited by friendly, peaceful people called the Lucayans, Taínos and Arawaks. Writing in his diary, Columbus said they were a handsome, smart and kind people. He noted that the gentle Arawaks were remarkable for their hospitality. “They offered to share with anyone and when you ask for something, they never say no,” he said. The Arawaks had no weapons; their society had neither criminals, prisons nor prisoners. They were so kind-hearted that Columbus noted in his diary that on the day the Santa Maria was shipwrecked, the Arawaks labored for hours to save his crew and cargo. The native people were so honest that not one thing was missing.

Columbus was so impressed with the hard work of these gentle islanders, that he immediately seized their land for Spain and enslaved them to work in his brutal gold mines. Within only two years, 125,000 (half of the population) of the original natives on the island were dead.”

For more info, check out Columbus Day? True Legacy: Cruelty and Slavery

Celebrating Columbus? The Myths Behind the Man

 Christopher Columbus and his men hunted Natives with war-dogs.

Christopher Columbus and his men hunted Natives with war-dogs.

By Steve Russell, Indian Country Today Media Network

Cristóbal Colón aka Cristóvão Colombo aka Cristoforo Colombo aka Christopher Columbus has gotten lots of breaks from history. He escapes blame for the massive die-off of the peoples in this hemisphere on the theory he did not intend the spread of disease, but he also gets a pass on his barbaric personal conduct among the Taino people.

The exploration package he finally sold to the monarchs of what would be Spain (after failing to interest Portugal, England, Venice, and even his hometown of Genoa) involved making him governor of the lands he discovered and conjuring up a new title just for him. He had requested “Great Admiral of the Ocean” but he settled for “Admiral of the Ocean Sea.”

Note that Columbus was Genoan rather than Italian because Italy did not exist. From the fall of the Roman Empire to the middle of the 19th century, the peninsula was a land of warring and conspiring city-states. It was culturally rich but politically fragmented, like the Indians of North America.

Of course, there was no “Spain” either, but the marriage of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon laid the geographical and political basis for a nation that would become an empire based on looting of the Americas by the conquistadores who followed Columbus. The miscalculation of the monarchs who turned down Columbus would be unmatched in history until Decca Records turned down The Beatles, but of course the Fab Four were not thieves.

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The Jewish Meaning of Columbus Day

A Jewish American reflects on Columbus Day, the legacy of settler-colonialism, and what it means for people of Jewish heritage

By Jordan Engel

In recent years, Columbus Day has become a day for many non-native Americans (let’s call them settlers) to reflect on their colonial legacy. As settlers in the Americas, we must bare some of the burden of decolonizing these lands, because the guilty parties in the genocide of American Indians over the past five centuries are not just the direct descendants of Indian-killers like Cortez, Custer, and Columbus. Decolonization is the responsibility of everyone alive today who lives on stolen lands, and as Jewish-Americans, we are not exempt.

Our people have a long and complicated history with this continent. We often fail to acknowledge, for example, that most of the Jews in the world, about 54 percent, live in North and South America – an area where 500 years ago, there were no Jews (ignoring, of course, wild theories that American Indians are one of the ten lost tribes of Israel).

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Decolonize The New World

Modern residents would hardly recognize the Bay Area as it was in the days of the Ohlones. Tall, sometimes shoulder-high strands of native bunch-grasses…covered the vast meadowlands and the tree-dotted savannahs. Marshes that spread out for thousands of acres fringed the shores of the Bay. Thick oak-bay forests and redwood forests covered much of the hills…

…Packs of wolves hunted the elk, antelope, deer, rabbits, and other game. Bald eagles and giant condors glided through the air. Mountain lions, bobcats, and coyotes—now seen only rarely—were a common sight. And of course there was the grizzly bear…These enormous bears were everywhere, feeding on berries, lumbering along the beaches, congregating beneath the oak trees during the acorn season, and stationed along nearly every stream and creek during the annual runs of salmon and steel head.

-from The Ohlone Way

On Columbus Day, 2012, the people of Oakland awoke to find a few dozen banks and other parasitic entities vandalized. Paint was splattered all over the walls, glass littered the ground, and the windows of the City Hall were being repaired that sunny morning. This was the first time in recent memory where the holiday was commemorated with destruction, disdain, and disorder directed at the fine and noble institutions of capitalism and colonialism.

Downtown was abuzz with chatter about what had happened the previous night. The mayor and the rest of the city bureaucracy felt bereaved, having had the windows and doors of their fair temple smashed once again. They complained to the media, lamenting the fact that on Columbus Day, in front of City Hall, there was supposed to be a fan rally for the Oakland A’s wherein all the problems of the world could momentarily be forgotten. Unfortunately for them, no one walking downtown that day could forget so easily. There was still anger in the atmosphere, lingering on despite all hope for the contrary.

The world that grew from the Spanish Missions, the world that created the rows of houses, the paved roads, and the electric lights of the metropolis was attacked the night before Columbus Day. The colonial world, the old world, the linear virus that extends in all directions: this was the target. Before the virus created this metal, glass, and concrete landscape, the land that is now downtown Oakland was a vast marshland filled with countless mammals, birds, and fish. These marshes sustained human life and enabled the Ohlone, Miwok, and other tribes of the area to live without an empire, exterminatory wars, or hunger. The Bay Area was a giant cauldron of life before colonization, just as it is now largely a cauldron of death.

Let us look no further than the image of Alan Blueford chalked on the bricks in front of City Hall and let us remember how he was killed by a psychopathic police officer while he was on the ground screaming. Let us not forget the indifference of City Hall towards his death or the cold words of Ignacio De La Fuente, the aspiring fascist dictator of the city. And let us not forget that there will be no prosecution of the cop who killed Alan Blueford. This is the system of death, and for just under an hour on the evening of October 7th it was assaulted by the chaotic forces of life.

But let us be clear, the forces of life are small, and they are enmeshed within the system of death. Our counterforce is stuck paying rent, working, and stealing whatever we can in order to survive. Our time is mostly out of our hands, and what little extra there is of it is spent trying to combat our enemy.

On Friday, October 5th, a small group of people met at the Montgomery BART station on Market Street in downtown San Francisco. This city, the center of colonial expansion in the Bay Area, is host to the consulates of various nation-states. The small group of people, numbering just over thirty, stepped out onto the streets and marched to the Canadian consulate, handing out fliers explaining how the US, Mexico, and Canada are engaged in an exterminatory war against the earth and its inhabitants, determined to extract as many resources from the soil as possible before their system eats itself.

They stood for ten minutes in front of the building while in the sky fighter jets tore through the air during their annual display of fascist technology. After leaving, the group continued to march down the street towards the Mexican consulate near the entrance to the Bay Bridge. As they marched, the people on the sidewalk stared at them and their banners in bewilderment before being distracted by the jets in the air and soon forgetting what they had just seen. Once the group reached the Mexican consulate, a few people read aloud the text of their flier. They were drowned out several times by the terror in the sky. The group dispersed without incident, signaling the start of a long weekend.

The next afternoon, a group of nearly two hundred people met at Justin Herman Plaza on the waterfront in San Francisco. They assembled for an anti-capitalist and anti-colonial march that would make its way through the financial district. Almost immediately, it was clear the police were not going to allow this march to take place. They confiscated a pirate-ship float that had been constructed for the march and destroyed it, they sent in a few old and feeble cops in plain clothes to take pictures of the participants (one of whom was fortunately assaulted and scared away), and declared the march illegal before it had finished walking a single city block. Perhaps knowing their efforts would be cut short, people began hurling paint at the police soon after discovering their presence on the street was a crime. The march lasted ten minutes before being attacked by the police. Twenty people were arrested and taken away to jail. The jets continued to fill the air with terrible noises. The banner that the people had marched behind read RESIST GENOCIDE – DESTROY WHAT IS CIVILIZED.

On the evening of October 7th, people met at Oscar Grant Plaza for a march remembering the anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan by US and NATO forces. Around two hundred people stood in a circle, drank tea, and listened to each other speak their minds about why they were there, where they came from, and what they wanted for the future. It felt like the best parts of the old general assemblies: togetherness, patience, strength. One speaker compared the smashing of windows to slinging rocks at a tank. She did not condemn either tactic. When I heard these words from her mouth, I spent then next twenty minutes realizing that she was correct in her comparison. Both tactics do little damage to their monolithic targets. Smashing bank windows has not brought down capitalism, just as slinging rocks has not freed Palestine. But, just like her, I cannot and will never condemn either tactic. They represent the force of life, desperately lashing against what it knows it cannot immediately stop, but determined to do it just the same. With her words, the speaker reminded me (and possibly others) of the infinite and proud nature of life. The march through downtown was powerful, angry, and left a clear, unmistakable message that could not be ignored as easily as the events of the preceeding days.

I in no way want to glorify or glamorize our inability to effectively destroy the forces and projects of our enemy. We are all caught in a web and other humans have taken the place of the spider. So often we attack each other and leave the web intact. To say we are doing the best we can is an overstatement. We are simply doing what we can, attempting to build off even the smallest success and increase the likelihood that our next efforts will mutate and transcend our past barriers and limitations.



With direct solidarity to:

-The EZLN, the imprisoned fighters, and the autonomous and indigenous communities of Mexico

-The Grand Jury Resistors in the Pacific Northwest of the US

-Those fighting the tar sands and the pipelines in Canada

-The workers of the Foxconn factories in China

-The family, friends, and memory of Alan Blueford, RIP