This Year I’m Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day 

Amani Yousuf, Staff Writer

We’re off Monday to “honor” Columbus Day, who we’ve long been taught “sailed the ocean blue” and “discovered America.”

That’s untrue, and it’s time we examined the horrors behind Columbus and shed light on the devastation and destruction this infamous ‘explorer’ left behind for America’s original inhabitants.  It’s time we changed the federal holiday – and the holiday here at LFHS – to honor Indigenous Americans. 

Why is this important?

For starters, Columbus didn’t even accomplish his goal of finding a water route from Europe to Asia. In actuality, by mere accident, he landed in the Americas. This also means that since our kindergarten days, in our textbooks and classrooms, we’ve idolized a man whose actions led to the colonial oppression and virtual extinction of an entire population.  

By blindly celebrating Columbus, each year we continue to silence the voices of Native Americans and ignore that even in the face of centuries of violence, they’re still here. 

For Indigenous people, Columbus Day conjures a painful history of abuse, disease, religious assimilation, slavery, and genocide at the hands of European colonizers like Columbus. Sadly, this history continues to cause issues such as tribal sovereignty, health crises, trauma, and poverty for Native Americans today. 

What is Indigenous Peoples’ Day?

Introduced in the 1970s, South Dakota was the first state to formally recognize the holiday. Indigenous Peoples’ Day reimagines Columbus Day as an opportunity to accurately reflect the nature of our nation’s history, which exposes the genocide and cultural oppression of Indigenous people in North America. 

It’s time we examined the horrors behind Columbus and shed light on the devastation and destruction this infamous ‘explorer’ left behind for America’s original inhabitants.

Now, it’s a culmination of celebrating Indigenous resistance and resilience as well as events to educate Americans on Native history and current injustices. 

More than 12 states and the District of Columbia recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Illinois has yet to change its name, but in 2016, Evanston took great initiative by becoming the first town in Illinois to rename the 2nd Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

Addressing Pushback and Honoring Italian Americans:

For centuries Columbus Day has been a sense of pride for Italian Americans, as it acknowledges the contributions they’ve made to the US despite facing ethnic and religious discrimination.  

However, according to The Washington Post, when Columbus was alive, Italy wasn’t its own country. He was born in a village near Genoa, which was an independent republic at the time. Although Genoa is now part of Italy, Columbus wasn’t technically Italian. 

Furthermore, there are certainly Italian Americans who understand the need for this change. As why would they want to be associated with someone who committed such horrible crimes against humanity? Of course, Italian Americans and their heritage deserve to be celebrated, but finding an alternative that doesn’t center around Columbus is imperative. 

Where does this leave us?

Columbus Day still stands, but last year President Joe Biden issued a proclamation commemorating October 11th as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. On Sept. 9, 2021, the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Act–which would make Indigenous Peoples’ Day a legal public holiday instead of Columbus Day–was introduced to the Senate. Since then, there have been no other updates. 

Although this should be the next step this nation takes as a whole, Lake Forest does not need to wait around for that. Like Evanston, we can take action. 

In ways we don’t even realize, we reflect who we are as a high school, student body, and community. One quick way to take initiative is to acknowledge this day off as Indigenous People’s Day. 

As you enter this long weekend and hopefully take part in some fall festivities, I encourage you to be mindful of who you’re celebrating. 

Supporting Indigenous Peoples’ Day matters because by recognizing the stories of Native Americans, we gain knowledge on the discrimination they continue to face today. We also understand that Indigenous people and tribal nations are a vital part of the United States of America. 

With that in mind, our community and our country have a lot of work to do. 

What’s one simple next step?  Reimagining Oct. 10 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.