Friday, October 11, 2019

Still Life With Robin: Goodbye, Columbus!

Columbus statue in front of Union Station, DC
by Peggy Robin

On Tuesday, October 8, the DC Council passed emergency legislation to rename this coming Monday, October 14 – the Holiday Formerly Known as Columbus Day -- "Indigenous People's Day." With this move DC joins six other states, and over 130 cities, towns, counties and other jurisdictions in ceasing to pay homage to the Italian explorer who claimed the New World for Spain. And the charges most commonly lodged against old Chris? Here are the three biggies:

* Columbus did NOT discover the Americas. It had a thriving native population who had been here some 16,000-30,000 years before Columbus and his three ships dropped anchor.  He wasn’t even the first European to cross the Atlantic. That prize goes to Leif Erikson.

* Once he came into contact with the people of what he called the Indies, Columbus brought some of them back to Spain in chains and oppressed and enslaved many others.

* First contact with Europeans set into motion the rapid spread of European diseases throughout the Americas, leading to mass death that in some places wiped out ninety percent of the population, obliterating whole cultures. The bringer of death and destruction on such a scale should never be honored - no matter what other accomplishments may be to his credit.

The honor, instead, ruled the Council, belongs to those who suffered from the conquerors from across the seas – and their descendants who managed to survive. For that reason the new name of the holiday is "Indigenous People's Day."  Here’s the story in DCist, which gives more details about the Council’s actions and reasoning:

To see a map showing what other states and municipalities have dumped Columbus Day, go here:

I say with some pride that this is a move I’ve been pushing since 2014, when I first took it up in this column: What to Do With Columbus on Columbus Day?

Now that it’s come to pass, I’m only too happy to say, Goodbye Columbus! And thank you to the DC Council for running him out of town before he had the chance to ruin another three-day weekend. And now let’s all go out and buy mattresses and cars just as the original Indigenous Peoples used to do!

Happy IP Weekend to ALL!

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.   

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