Is your crazy conservative uncle nearby? You probably don’t want him to read this. If he does, he’ll probably forward you a billion terribly formatted emails in comic sans about how brown folks are impending on the freedoms of white people, and how Donald Trump is going to make America great again, whatever that means.
In case you haven’t heard, there’s a push in Oklahoma City (as well as other places) to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. I’m 100% behind this. Consider me the voting representative of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. According to KFOR.com:
“[We’re] coming together to honor indigenous people instead of a man who murdered, enslaved and killed hundreds of thousands of indigenous people,” said Jasha Lyons Echo-Hawk, who addressed the council. “It’s a disservice to teach our children a made-up history.”
Councilman Pete White agrees. The representative of the fourth ward said he plans to push an ordinance forward at the next council meeting that would make the change. He said he’s not sure how much support he will receive from the other members of council.
“First of all, Columbus didn’t discover America. Second, in the name of Christianity and a lot of other things, he killed a lot of people,” White said. “I’m not sure he deserves to be celebrated.”
A simple change in the name will likely not make much of a difference for the city, White said. City workers don’t even get the day off work.
So, maybe it’s just symbolic. But that’s important. It’s important not to give a day to man who was actually pretty terrible. That’s why I’ve got 10 reasons OKC should adopt Indigenous People’s Day.
1. Oklahoma is pretty indigenous.
I don’t know if you’re aware, but there are a lot of tribes in Oklahoma. It seems absurd to celebrate a man whose name is synonymous with the destruction of tribes in a state that got its name because of how many tribes were there.
2. Just because he was venerated in elementary school classrooms doesn’t mean Columbus is worth celebrating.
A lot of people will make the typical appeal to tradition on this one. I’m not going to allow that. Just because you once learned that “in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue” doesn’t mean this dude needs to be celebrated. In fact, take a second to think about all the things you were taught in public school that you had to unlearn because they were wrong. (This isn’t a post about how state government has undercut the public education system, but know that I have that post somewhere in my arsenal.) If we solely went on information we learned in school, then we would think that abstinence is the only birth control method and Pluto is a planet.
3. Pixels was awful.
I know that the Chris Columbus who conquered regions for Spain isn’t the same Chris Columbus who directs movies. But they share a name, and as long as Pixels exists, then we shall not honor that name.
4. It will legitimize your “Cherokee princess great-grandma” story.
Remember how you tell everyone that your great-grandmother was a full-blood Cherokee princess, but she was too proud to put her name on the rolls so that’s why you don’t have a tribal ID card? Well, you can lend some credence to that nonsense by rallying behind Indigenous People’s Day. After all, your fake great-grandma wasn’t too proud to take a holiday away from an asshole.
5. Raping and pillaging is generally frowned upon.
So, what if an Italian dude, with the financial backing of Spain, sailed to South Carolina and started acting like he discovered the place? Then, when the residents of South Carolina happily agreed to trade their goods with this Italian dude, he murders them in the name of Christianity. Then, he takes the women he finds and makes them sex slaves for sailors. We would probably take issue with that. Just as we should take issue with the fact that it happened over 500 years ago.
6. I know you Protestants aren’t down with having a Catholic hero.
So, the only reason Columbus Day exists is because the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization lobbied for it in the 1930s. They wanted a Catholic hero. Now, I have nothing against Catholicism, and I’m pretty Catholic whenever there’s a wedding or a funeral on my mom’s side of the family. However, I know so many Protestants in this state who are aggressively anti-Catholic because they don’t understand the evolution of Christianity. But at least take that anti-Catholic sentiment and get Columbus’s name off of this day. I’m pretty sure most Catholics would help out with this cause as well, since Columbus wasn’t a particularly good Catholic.
7. Columbus didn’t actually land on American soil.
Columbus landed in the Bahamas and Hispaniola–what is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic. If you’re cool with calling those places part of the U.S., we’re probably going to have to start treating Haiti a lot better. Also, that’s a pretty big difference in location. I mean, I consider Tulsa to be far away. I can’t even fathom the distance between the U.S. and the Bahamas.
8. Columbus was arrested and then pardoned under pretty sketchy circumstances.
In 1500, he was taken back to Spain in chains. He lost his governor title, but King Ferdinand pardoned him and then paid for him to go on another voyage. You know, come to think of it, maybe some of our local politicians could learn a thing or two from him about making a comeback after you’ve screwed up.
9. Some of the lies he made up about the tribes he encountered are still taught in schools today.
There were no cannibals. There were no savages with dog-like noses who drink the blood of their victims. What Columbus encountered were gentle people who didn’t like all the liberties he took with their lives. But that doesn’t stop the textbook makers from including this false information.
10. Indigenous people have had more of an impact on Oklahoma than Christopher Columbus ever did.
I mean, obviously.