WVU experts offer insight on changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Monongalia

MORGANTOWN, W.V.a. – Oct. 11 is Columbus Day but not everyone recognizes it as a holiday. Some are looking to get the holiday changed to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

A Native American Studies Coordinator at WVU, Bobbie Brown, said for Indigenous people of the Americas, the Columbus landing launched centuries of genocide, disease, slavery, colonization, and domination. 

“Sponsored by Spain, he set out for the Asian East Indies, landed in what is called the Caribbean, and returned to Europe not knowing where he’d been,” Brown said. “He took Indigenous captives to Europe, commodifying fellow humans and launching the trans-Atlantic slave trade, stating, ‘…their Highnesses may see that I shall give them as much gold as they need… and slaves as many as they shall order to be shipped,’” Brown explained.

To some, changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a way to acknowledge the first people to live in the land that is now the U.S. 

Brown said estimates show that prior to Columbus landing in the Caribbean, the Indigenous population of what is now the United States may have been 30 million or more. Scientists have found evidence of an Indigenous presence here at least 23,000 years ago. 

DR. Max Floman, a West Virginia University history professor, said Columbus’s values are not our values anymore. 

“Now, I think people are starting to listen to what people have been saying for a long time, especially indigenous peoples, and are recognizing that you can’t hold this person up as an example to the rest of us unless you’re into militant Catholicism and genocide …. I mean the things that Columbus did, his values and his actions, are very difficult to support if you believe in empathy, kindness forgiveness respect.” 

The 2020 U.S. Census reports more than 30,000 West Virginians reported they are American Indian or Alaska Native in combination with one or more other races. 

President Joe Biden signed a proclamation on Friday recognizing today at Indigenous Peoples’ Day.  

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