SAU Buzz

Indigenous Peoples Day

by Mary Roche
Posted on Sep 07, 2017

Hope. Discovery. Heroism. Rape. Disease. Violence. People associate many things with the name Christopher Columbus, who sailed the ocean blue in 1492 to find India. After arriving on American soil, he found Native Americans and proceeded to treat them as little more than animals.

L.A. City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, a member of the Wyandotte Nation tribe, introduced a proposal to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2015. Last week, the proposal passed with a vote of 14-1.

The single opposer, Councilman Joe Buscaino, felt it would be a rejection of Italian heritage to change the name. His solution was to change Columbus Day to “Embrace L.A. Day” and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on a different date.

Across the country, people are celebrating, saying it is one small step towards apologizing for the way Native Americans have been treated since settlers began coming here. While historical accounts differ, it’s become increasingly clear that Columbus was not a gracious guest in the Americas.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day was created to celebrate Native American heritage after years of oppression in the United States. Over the centuries, Native Americans have been killed, forced to act as white people, separated from their families, driven out of their land, and increasingly oppressed.

Joseph Quintana, development director for the United American Indian Involvement, spoke to the L.A. Times.

“We’ve been erased from education. We’ve been erased from the history books,” he said.  

And oftentimes, this is true. Many significant events have been painted in unflattering lights. Many Native American children were forced to attend schools where they were forced to forget their ancestry.

Some Italian Americans continue to be upset about the change, claiming the measure was anti-Italian.

“Why don’t you stop picking on Christopher Columbus as though you’re picking on our people,” Beverly Hills resident John Giovanni Corda said. “We never hurt you. We never wanted to hurt you.”

It is true that Italians were discriminated against when they were immigrating to America, along with the Irish. However, it is important to note that today, aside from a facetious feud between Irish and Italians, much of this discrimination did not last nearly as long as the routine discrimination of Native Americans has.

O’Farrell’s plan was to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, then celebrate Italian American Heritage Day. Only the former would be a paid holiday, though.

“We are not creating a racial conflict. We are ending one,” he said.