Today, most of the United States is celebrating Columbus Day by shopping sales or getting other errands done if they are lucky enough to work someplace that still takes the day off. For some, it’s just another day, or if one is Italian, there might be a parade or family gathering to celebrate their heritage in the name of a famous Italian.
However, in my neck of the woods, many choose to honor the people that lived in the Americas long before Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492 (and I’m not talking about the Vikings). The movement started in Berkeley, the city just north of my own home base, which is well-known for their, shall we say, radical political leanings. In 1992 the Berkeley City Council approved a city wide holiday to coincide with the federal holiday of Columbus Day, naming it Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Wikipedia can give you more of the scoop. In recent years, other cities have joined in such a name change. We welcome Minneapolis and Seattle to the list of those who celebrate the cultures that were here before Columbus even set foot in the Americas.
Personally, I’ve been tickled to see the worthy albeit slow transition toward the better understanding of the contributions of Native Americans and rejection of Columbus as our national hero. Having studied Native American art, history, and culture in college and beyond, I’m grateful to see others appreciate the history of those who existed on this land before it was “discovered.” Though the classic genealogical tall-tale of a Cherokee Princess never existed in my own family, my DNA results actually does show some connection to Native Americans. However, the paper trail does not yet support those results, and I make no claim to be anything other than respectful.
To those who grasp on to the Columbus Day as a celebration of Italian heritage, may I nominate April 15th as Leonardo Day. As a nation, we need another focus for our attention on that day each year, but as a civilization, we can all support the contributions of Leonardo Da Vinci. I’d applaud such a symbol of Italian heritage.
But I am not so delusional as to think that anyone will dismiss Columbus Day without local support, nor do I believe we are likely to see a significant movement to rename this day on a national level any time soon. But as you go on about your day, please take time to honor the first residents of the land we love.