October 8th is here, a day marked as “Columbus Day” on many calendars since 1937.
The history of genocide and systemic discrimination against Indigenous Peoples hardly merits celebrating-as is the case when their so-called “discovery” by colonizers is marked. Following mobilizations over the past several years, especially since the adoption of the historic UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 11 years ago, a growing number of places in the USA have done away with the “Columbus” part and renamed the day “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”. These include Alaska, Vermont, Seattle, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkley, Denver, Bangor City in Maine, South Dakota and Cambridge. The city of Columbus, Ohio, will not observe the controversial federal holiday honoring its namesake for the first time this year.
The academic community at Harvard was informed last October that the Cambridge City Council had voted unanimously to change Christopher Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day and that the Faculty of Arts and Sciences had updated the Calendar to read "University Holiday: Columbus Day (Federal) and Indigenous Peoples' Day (City of Cambridge)."
This discussion has resonance within our own community at Columbia. For a number of years now, the Native American Council and supporting students and faculty have been advocating for Columbia to mark the day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. In 2016, we were proud that our University was able to place a plaque recognizing that the campus is built on traditional Lenape territory.
We live in times when, despite growing challenges to human rights, the most important thing to retain is the conviction that, yes, commitment, determination and solidarity matter and that, yes, through our struggles, we can create decolonized spaces and spaces of justice, here, where we live.