Columbus Day: a day in transition as groups work to honor natives

By Larenia Nokes

Columbus Day fell on Oct. 12 this year. Banks closed, along with some public schools and government offices.

Some people know a lot about Columbus. School kids learn the basics about him.

But now there is a movement in the U.S. to broaden the scope of this special day to honor others who warrant the attention.

The late 1980s played host to a growing negative opinion of the national holiday and in the early 1990s, Americans in many cities and college campuses protested Columbus Day and its historical reasoning.

Starting in 1992, Berkley, California, celebrated the first “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”

Public opinion has grown to honor the civilizations already established on the islands in the Bahamas where the Niña, Pinta, and the Santa María landed, on Columbus’ historic voyage.

That movement includes Native American Indians, who are working in political offices and civilian groups to see that history reflects the trials they have survived and the strength they have always had.

With many tribal nations working toward this goal, just in Kansas, the rededication of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day statewide is a real possibility.

Nationwide, the efforts and the probable outcomes are much the same.

In the near future, we might well see an Indigenous Peoples’ Day and new celebrations right here at HCC.

On Aug. 3, 1492, Columbus sailed from the port of Palos, Spain, with three ships nicknamed the Niña, Pinta, and the Santa María. The Queen of Spain, Isabella of Castille, who had them sail under Spanish colors, sponsored the voyage.

After three weeks, with no sight of land, the crew threatened mutiny. But Columbus was a natural born leader and he got his crews to agree to go on, under his command. On Oct. 12, 1492, the Niña, Pinta, and the Santa María landed at Watling Island in modern San Salvador, in the Bahamas.

Columbus rightly claimed discovery of the land, thinking he had found islands off the coast of India, and claimed the land on behalf of his sovereign and patroness, the Queen of Spain.

Columbus made his voyage 523 years ago. Now the commentary on his accomplishments and the results are a subject of heated debate.

On Oct. 12, 1792, New York City held the first celebration for Columbus Day, honoring Italian heritage and bringing together Italian-American immigrants.

Today, the national opinion of Columbus as a man and his accomplishments has changed, even though he never set foot on the American mainland.

In 1936, a federal holiday was declared to celebrate the 1492 voyage.

Here at HCC in a non-scientific survey test sample of 42 students, 69% of them knew that Columbus sailed from Spain.

When asked what he discovered, 81% of students knew that he is credited with discovering America.

When asked what year the historic voyage was made, 69% of students correctly answered, “1492.”

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