Few people know that Colorado was the original state to establish Columbus Day as a state holiday. So decades later, why would we be moving to repeal it in the Legislature now?
There are close to 100 organizations with thousands of people who want to eliminate the day as a state holiday. Why? In seminary, as I have been taking courses in American Indian history, culture, and worldviews and have been involved with the local Native community, I now know why this is so important to do.
Most of us going through school in the United States were taught that America was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus and that he and his crew made friends with the Indians. Well, it turns out, this is false. In fact, historians have proven that Columbus actually landed in the Bahamas. When he arrived, there were already more than 100 million Indigenous peoples living in the Americas.
It also turns out that Columbus was not such a good guy after all, let alone a hero who deserves a holiday named after him. Prior to his voyage abroad, he was engaged in the African slave trade on behalf of Portugal. Then once he arrived here, he and his followers began the process of enslaving, kidnapping and killing the Indigenous by establishing the encomienda system that enslaved them and forced them to produce gold for Columbus’ enterprise, under penalty of torture and/or death. It has also been revealed that they snatched babies from Indian mothers and killed them, preventing their population from growing.
The Columbus Day holiday has been historically viewed by many as a celebration of Italian-American pride, which has stopped a repeal of the holiday. Yet, as some have now realized the accurate history and the harmful effects of the holiday’s name on their Native American sisters and brothers, the communities have gotten together with a compromise. The replacement will be to instead honor a true Italian-American heroine in Colorado history, Frances Cabrini, who helped establish 67 charitable institutions including hospitals, schools, and orphanages. The current bill will repeal Colorado’s designation of Columbus Day as a state holiday and replace it with Cabrini Day. The conception of Cabrini Day is a compromise collaboration between leaders in the Indigenous communities, Italian communities, and anti-racist stakeholders. This state House Bill (HB20-1031) has already passed the House with 20 co-sponsors and is on its way to the Senate.
The existence of Columbus Day in Colorado signifies that the state condones Columbus’ heinous actions against the Indigenous and Africans and unnecessarily continues emotional harm to them today. It is time we clarify the accurate history and reduce the continuing trauma. Nationally, only 22 out of 50 states still observe Columbus Day. As of 2016, Denver, Durango, and Boulder no longer observe it. Thanks to renowned American Indian professors in Colorado, Dr. Glenn Morris and Dr. Tink Tinker, for their teaching and historical citations. If you’d like to know more, feel free to visit Transform Columbus Day Denver on Facebook or email me.
Formerly a Colorado state senator, now a seminary student at Iliff School of Theology, Linda Newell is a writer, speaker, filmmaker and facilitator. She may be reached at Senlindanewell@gmail.com, www.lindanewell.org, www.senlindanewell.com, @sennewell on Twitter, Senator Linda Newell or @TheLastBill on Facebook.
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