• May 11NHS Spelling Bee on May 11th at 7pm in the auditorium

  • May 7Junior and Senior prom is May 12th at the Riverview in Simsbury

  • May 7Last day of school is June 21st, 2018

Time to discover a new holiday for indigenous people

Michio Agresta

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Why do you celebrate Christopher Columbus? For many, the response to this would be that he was a great explorer who “discovered” the Americas. However, this is outright wrong. Prior to Columbus’s trip, millions of Native Americans had been living on the land for centuries. It did however spark the exploration and exploitation of the American continents and people. Over the next several centuries, millions of Native Americans would be killed from disease, battle, and enslavement all at the hand of the Europeans. As new settlements emerged across the land, Europeans drastically altered the environments, abusing the land for its resources. We should no longer celebrate a man who brought about the violent colonization of the Western hemisphere, but rather the culture and history of the indigenous people of these lands that so often go unrecognized.

The original holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus started hundreds of years ago.
Small populations around the U.S., particularly Catholics and Italians, praised him every year on
Oct. 12, the anniversary of him landing in the Americas. These groups took pride in his
accomplishments and affiliations to both of these families. It was not until 1937 that Franklin D.
Roosevelt made it a national holiday as a result from intense lobbying by the Knights of
Columbus, an influential Catholic fraternal organization. This holiday was continuously
celebrated on the 12th of October, until 1971 when it was changed to the second monday of
October, following this schedule to present day. Today, the holiday has evolved in parts of the
country as a celebration of Italian-American heritage, along with the mainstream significance he
has as an important historical figure.

Indigenous Peoples Day is not a new idea. The United Nations created the International
Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples in 1994 which is annually celebrated worldwide on
August 9th. This is still not an official holiday of the U.S. However, what several states and
many cities are doing throughout the country is replacing this Columbus Day with this holiday. I
believe that this is a much more appropriate holiday to celebrate in comparison to a man who
enslaved and brought death to millions of people. To celebrate this holiday cities put together
food, dance, and song, with the help of local tribes. On this day, the history of Native American is taught along with the contemporary culture that is practiced. It is the goal of these supporters to educate the population and especially the youth of our nation because schools and textbooks often overlook indigenous people and the maltreatment that they undertook. With a more educated population greater respect will be given to the Native Americans and the hardships that they’ve faced and continually face.

Still, in the U.S. almost all Native American tribes combat a great amount of poverty and
discrimination. Throughout the U.S. 27% of all Native Americans live in poverty, and
unemployment on some reservations soars above 50%. This is despicable. For a nation with such
a deplorable past there should be more done to help support these struggling communities. Their
school systems are especially weak as there is very little funding from the government to keep
them maintained and running. Only 69% of Native Americans graduate from High School
compared to the 82% average nationwide according to the National Center for Education
Statistics. This disparity in percentage grows even greater when looking at the number of college students. More than 60% of U.S. high school students go on to college, while only 17% of American Indian students are able to continue their education after high school. Many financial and cultural factors hold these students back from college and this puts them at a great
disadvantage for future jobs. It simply becomes a ruthless cycle of poverty for these natives that
may seem impossible to overcome. Furthermore, companies, along with the government, still
exploit their land for resources. A perfect example of this would be the Dakota Access Pipeline
that now goes through sacred land of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Time and time again
money is chosen over people, and it is sickening. After months of protests from the tribesmen
and thousands of other supporters around the world, the pipeline was still approved, allowing the oil company to disrupt the natural habitat and sacred burial sites.

I truly hope the future is bright for Native Americans. Their traditional way of life may
have been destroyed the day Columbus set foot on the Americas, however, there is still hope that
their culture can thrive in today’s society. With the implementation of Indigenous Peoples Day
we will no longer celebrate a vile man, but rather the achievements and arts of a much more
deserving population. Although we may never make up for the cruel actions our ancestors took
against the indigenous people, a day of commemoration and acceptance will optimistically bring about a new mentality towards the native people within our country.

 

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Time to discover a new holiday for indigenous people