My California National Parks calendar says today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and as my Other Worldly protagonist Rowan Layne would say, boy howdy! It’s about time.
Even better, President Biden issued a proclamation to observe Monday, October 9, as a day to honor Native Americans. This is the third consecutive year that this US president has officially recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
A monumental shift in focus from Columbus Day, a federal holiday established back in 1934 that now shares its second Monday in October status with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Too bad the latter didn’t actually replace the former, but its recognition and celebration has been a long-fought battle in coming.
Because Columbus Day unfortunately and inexplicably remains a federal holiday, Biden also issued a proclamation to celebrate “Italian Americans who have helped realize the full promise of our nation.”
Problem is, Christopher Columbus was not nor never was an Italian American. Truth be told, this Italian explorer never set foot—not even one pinky toe—on the shores of what’s now known as the United States of America, so how can he be deemed to have discovered it?
Recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day is seen as helping to correct a whitewashed American history that has glorified Europeans like Columbus who committed violent atrocities against Indigenous communities.
Harmful revisionist history that is downright delusional in crediting Columbus with discovering the Americas when Indigenous People resided on these continents long before he and his marauders set sail from Europe.
Need proof? The photo accompanying this blog post depicts petroglyphs that are thousands of years, not mere centuries, old. Ancient rock carvings created by Indigenous People who lived in the American southwest and elsewhere many millennia ago, along with animals who still roam Earth.
Both my passion for petroglyphs and disdain for the absurdity of all things named for Columbus in the US are reflected in my Other Worldly novel series, beginning with Alienable Rights. Wherein, Rowan Layne also bemoans the ridiculous American property law notion of white settlers deemed “first in time” to set foot on what is now US soil.
In my novels, actual aliens of the extraterrestrial kind also engage in a bit of snark over humans naming so much after a man who was never an American and had absolutely nothing to do with our nation.
In Alienable Rights, Rowan discovers it’s worse than she realized, because all things named Columbia in the US are also named in honor of Columbus. Disgusted by this, she goes so far as to select a Washington State wine from the Yakima Valley over the Columbia Valley at a Seattle restaurant, a deliberate choice not lost on her alien companion.
That happens in my most recent novel, Altogether Alien, wherein I also engage in a bit of fun regarding both Columbia and Washington. I’d always presumed it must be confusing for visiting foreigners that we have both a Washington, DC, as in District of Columbia, as well as a State of Washington. Also, they are nowhere near each other.
When I was young, our neighbors had a visitor from France who was surprised by the vastness of the land mass of our nation. She mistakenly thought it was possible to quickly jaunt over to visit the Grand Canyon in Arizona—from Virginia.
Hence, I rationalized that aliens from outer space might also be confused by this. In Altogether Alien, It was a way to infuse hearty humor into Rowan’s rancor over all things named Columbus and Columbia.
In reality, there’s nothing amusing about idolizing a man or any culture that dehumanizes and brutalizes Indigenous cultures.
But at least Biden’s proclamation signifies a formal adoption of a day that a growing number of states are acknowledging, and some cities have completely dropped recognition of Columbus Day, as I certainly have.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day is here to stay and appropriately reflects the history of America. And Rowan Layne will continue to snark it up about all things named Columbus in my Other Worldly novels.
Maybe one day that will change, too. The capital of our nation is appropriately named for our first president George Washington, but the district in which it resides should not be named for Columbus.
Washington, DC, should also be a state with representation to go along with its taxation, but given we already have a state named Washington, it does present a pickle. Nothing that a presidential proclamation can’t fix. After all, they finally managed to change the name of the Washington, DC, football team that demeaned Indigenous Americans.
Good riddance to that, and good riddance, Columbus.