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article imageIndigenous Peoples' Day replaces Columbus Day in Seattle

By Karen Graham     Oct 7, 2014 in Politics
Seattle - Generations of youngsters in the U.S. grew up knowing Columbus discovered America. Celebrating the Italian explorer's discovery on October 12, 1492 became a celebration of Italian heritage, even though we later learned he didn't discover America at all.
The Seattle City Council in Washington state has now joined a growing number of cities and states across the nation voting to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day on the same day as Columbus Day. Columbus Day is a federally recognized holiday celebrated on October 12, although it is not a legal state holiday in Washington.
In a resolution unanimously passed on Monday, the Seattle City Council voted to honor the contributions and culture of Native Americans and the indigenous community of the city on the second Monday in October.
Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation on the Olympic Peninsula, and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians said, "This action will allow us to bring into current present day our valuable and rich history, and it's there for future generations to learn." She got a hearty round of applause when she added, "Nobody discovered Seattle, Washington."
A number of Italian-Americans attending the council meeting were not real happy at the passing of the resolution. Outside the meeting, Ralph Fascitelli said, "We don't argue with the idea of Indigenous Peoples' Day. We do have a big problem of it coming at the expense of what essentially is Italian Heritage Day."
"This is a big insult to those of us of Italian heritage. We feel disrespected. America wouldn't be America without Christopher Columbus," he added.
The Seattle School Board decided last week to have students celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day on Columbus Day this year. Minneapolis also decided earlier this year to drop the celebration of Columbus Day, instead designating the day as Indigenous Peoples' Day. South Dakota, with a Native American population of 8.8 percent, has celebrated Native American Day since 1990.
In Hawaii, Columbus Day has been replaced by Discoverers Day, honoring the Polynesian explorers who sailed to the new World. Since 1992, Berkeley, California has not celebrated Columbus Day. Berkeley's 1992 resolution changing Oct. 12 to Indigenous Peoples' Day was a way to "show solidarity with Indigenous People." This turned into a protest of the "historical conquest of North America by Europeans."
Actually, many cities and states have cancelled large Columbus Day celebrations, either due to lack of interest, or budget cuts. But more telling is the history. Not that Christopher Columbus was not a real man, or an Italian. No one questions that he was an explorer searching for wealth and a route to China, India and the spice islands of Asia.
Columbus just didn't "discover" what we have been taught all these years. As archaeological evidence and better research methods have shown the world, there were others who walked on North America's shores. The Vikings in the 10th century, long before Columbus set foot in the Bahamas, had settlements in Greenland and New Foundland.
DNA evidence has shown us that Polynesians settled in South America almost 100 years before Columbus came to the New World. Another researcher, G. Rebecca Dobbs wrote in her essay “Why We Should Abolish Columbus Day” that as many as 100 million people were living in the "New World" by the time Columbus arrived.
The biggest problem many people today have with celebrating Columbus Day is the impact the explorer had on the indigenous people he found inhabiting the shores of the New World. Columbus and his crew enslaved, tortured, raped, and murdered an indigenous people on their own homeland, all in the name of claiming the New World for his benefactors.
Most Americans today now look upon this ethnic cleansing the same way they look at what Hernando Cortez did in Mexico, Francisco Pizarro did to the Incan Empire and what the United States did to our own indigenous people. We look at these pages of history with distaste.
Seattle councilman Bruce Harrell, while speaking for the city of Seattle said "we won't be successful in our social programs and outreach until we fully recognize the evils of our past." This sentiment could just as easily apply to the whole nation.
More about Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples Day, Seattle, Oregon, Controversy
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