Editorial: Indigenous peoples deserve a day of recognition

Mila Brandson, Editor in Chief

The process of the Columbian Exchange and European influence has donated the cultural foundations of language, architecture, politics, and beliefs in America as we know it. However, when Christopher Columbus landed in San Salvador in 1492, he set off a chain of events that not only devastated Native American populations with a smallpox epidemic but also denied their claim to their homeland. In his diary he later gave to Queen Isabella of Spain, Columbus viewed the cultural differences of Indigenous and European customs as a sign of “ignorance” and sought to take advantage of their kindness.

With similar barbaric beliefs, Native Americans and other Indigenous peoples have been cheated and mistreated by European settlers and later the U.S. government. As they were slowly pushed off their ancestral lands and promised space elsewhere, that territory was again ripped from under their feet. Although the holiday was initially intended to recognize the contributions of Italian Americans due to anti-Italian sentiment during the late 19th century, it also honors a man who committed rape, pillage, and enslavement. It is unfair to celebrate Christopher Columbus, a man who disregarded the humanity of Indigenous peoples and believed that “with fifty men we could subjugate them all,” when they were already living on the continent he supposedly discovered.

The treatment of Indigenous peoples by settlers and the U.S. government has been built upon a foundation of broken promises and unacceptable treatment of individuals. The Viking Logue staff believes that the celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day is crucial to establish respect for the resilience of Native Americans, but cannot forgive the horrific treatment they have faced. This does not diminish the impact and contributions of Italian Americans, but choosing not to recognize a man whose actions modeled offensive behavior. It is essential that the history of European interaction with Indigenous peoples is taught as a part of school curriculum, in order to instill a sense of humility as a nation for the wrongs they have endured. As we look to the future of the holiday, we must acknowledge the beauty of cultural diversity and long-lasting customs of Indigenous populations even in the face of adversity.