Welcome to the latest edition of Igniting Your Dynamic Self with Wendy Bjork. As an international bestselling author, inspirational speaker and guide to others, as well as founder of heartsofwellness.com, it is my mission to help others understand how to make progress forward and live our best lives!
Why Do We Still Celebrate Columbus Day?
It seems the majority of us have been lied to growing up.
Our country has undergone a rethinking of what and whom we choose to honor through statues, monuments, and celebrations. This rethinking is especially evident in our annual observance of Columbus Day, which many people now regard as a national insult to the over 5 million American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian citizens of this nation. In the face of this reckoning, many Native Americans and other activists are demanding that our nation stop celebrating a man who initiated and sanctioned a history of exploitation, enslavement, and erasure in the Americas.
Despite his claim to have discovered America, Columbus was not the first European to land on these shores—and, in fact, he brought nothing to this continent other than a plague that decimated the indigenous population. Moreover, his voyages to the so-called New World inaugurated a long history of colonization in which European explorers turned settlers would regularly raid and occupy Indigenous land. This resulted in a devastating and ongoing history of enslavement, theft, and genocidal violence that is still felt today.
Many Americans are confused about why we still celebrate Columbus Day. There are some who feel that we should honor our Italian American heritage on the holiday, while others feel that celebrating Columbus is offensive because it glorifies an exploration that led to the enslavement and genocide of Native Americans. Regardless of your view, it’s important to understand the history behind Columbus Day so that you can have an informed discussion about whether or not we should continue to celebrate it.
Columbus, like most of the Europeans who arrived in the Americas, harbored racist and paternalistic views toward indigenous peoples. His own journal entries reveal that he viewed the original inhabitants of the Americas as a resource to be exploited for his country’s benefit. He thought that they were inferior militarily, culturally, and religiously—and that they needed to be “filled up” with the language, culture, and Christianity of his home countries in Europe.
When he landed on the island of Hispaniola in 1492, Columbus immediately began seizing native peoples and shipping them back to Spain in order to make money. He was a slave trader and, in his later years, sent thousands of Native people to search for gold and work on plantations. The majority of these people died on the journey.
Even more disturbing is the fact that Columbus and his European followers routinely engaged in genocide against Indigenous peoples in the Americas, including the intentional murder of children. This largely occurred as the indigenous population was dying from war, disease, and enslavement—while also being devastated by forced relocations and loss of culture.
Columbus was a controversial figure even in his own time. He was criticized for his cruelties toward Indigenous peoples by Bartholome de Las Casas, a Dominican priest, and by Queen Isabella for whom he sailed. His expedition also introduced deadly diseases to the natives, which would ultimately wipe out entire communities.
In the United States, Columbus Day is a federal holiday that was first celebrated in Colorado in 1905. It became a national holiday in 1937, following lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization largely made up of Italian Americans. The holiday was originally observed on October 12, but it was moved to the second Monday in October in 1971. In the United States, schools and government offices are closed on Columbus Day. Some people hold parades and other festivities with traditional foods and music in celebration of the holiday.
For the millions of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian people, this is a moment to reclaim their place in history as a founding group of this nation. The rebranding of Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day represents an opportunity to recognize and honor our nation’s first peoples’ resilience and contribution.
Columbus Day is not the cutesy holiday we were taught as children, drawing out pictures of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. It’s time to honor those who have been exploited, not the image and myth of a man who “discovered” America.
There is a movement to end the celebration of Columbus Day in favor of a holiday that recognizes Native peoples and their resiliency. Some are even asking that the holiday be renamed to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. A woman named Baley Champagne led the effort to change the name of the holiday in her home state of Louisiana. She hopes to make the change nationwide.
I am a proponent of digging up the real stories and bringing light to what really happened in the past. Here’s another good article I wrote based on the horrible schools indigenous children were forced to be subjected to in the late 1800’s through a majority of the 1900’s: Fan of Yellowstone and 1923? You Need To Hear This. – USA Daily Times
It’s time to recognize and teach our children the real stories of what transpired instead of fluffy holidays covering up the truth. It’s an important way to avoid a repeat of what happened.
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As a best selling author, inspirational speaker and Nationally Syndicated Columnist, Wendy Bjork empowers women to see beyond whatever challenges they are navigating.
She inspires them to boldly live in acceptance, live healthy and free as she teaches them to see life in a different way to fulfill their dreams that have been left on the back-burner for far too long.
Her HeartsofWellness.com platform is the place for women to begin receiving the support they are seeking as they create their roadmap back to freedom and wellness with Wendy lighting their path.
As a pioneer in advocacy and mentorship, Wendy is leading a global revolution of women walking in purpose and peace as she illumines their path ahead with the light of HOPE: Harmony, Options, Peace & Empowerment.
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