Columbus Day is a holiday celebrated by some to honor Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the United States in 1492. Although celebrated as early as the 18th century, it was not made into a federal holiday until 1937. However long the commemoration has taken place, its essence and history is a controversial topic.
Many argue that Columbus is not the hero America paints him to be. This is in reference to the genocide and displacement of indigenous people as Columbus and other Europeans deepened their settlement. In order to take back pride for the customs and traditions that have been swept away since Columbus’ settling, Indigenous Peoples’ Day aims to reclaim and celebrate the cultures of the people who were here long before Columbus.
Since 2015, some cities have officially redesignated Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Yesterday in New York, people held ceremonies including the spreading of tobacco into the Harlem River, a ritual to send their prayers of appreciation for their ancestors through the universe, as a part of the new adaptation of recognition and tradition for that part of our history.
This name change has spread to even more cities recently and because of it, many have decided to vote to change the name of the holiday. People are divided on this subject because Columbus’ voyage to the Americas was the beginning of the end of many cultures and their history due to the genocidal acts committed by European settlers against indigenous communities.
With this subject in mind, it poses the question of when is it okay for traditions to be broken? The answer: when traditions are offensive and ignore another group of people’s culture and history.
No matter that “times have changed,” or that “things are ‘different’ now,” historical events that lead to certain celebrations, symbols, etc. still have meaning for groups that were more negatively affected. Let’s keep in mind that everything we do is not set in stone just because it has been that way for so long. Change can do some good, especially if it means paying due respects.