By Vy Nguyen
On October 9th 2017, Portland will celebrate its 78th Columbus Day. This seems quite conflicting, because Columbus Day has been a federal holiday since 1937, which makes it the 81st celebration. So then why is it the 78th?
First of all, what is Columbus Day?
For those of you who have been living under a rock for most of your life, or those who have been here for just a short amount of time, Columbus Day was created to celebrate the day Christopher Columbus set foot on the American continent. The holiday was first celebrated in 1905 in Colorado, then in 1937, the US government made it a federal holiday.
Who is Christopher Columbus? “In fourteen hundred ninety two/ Columbus sailed the ocean blue”. He is usually attributed to be the person who first discovered the American continent, but that is not the truth. Columbus was not the first person to ever set foot on America, he was just the one who put the place on the map: Long before 1492, the island San Salvador had been occupied by the Lucayan, Taíno and Arawak tribes. In addition, it was later found out by historians that Columbus’s treatment to the Native Americans was so murderous that the population of the island dropped from 22,000 to merely 200 people. Quite contrast to the same old poem, eh? “But Columbus was brave, and he was bright”. And by the way, who was the one that kept claiming that America continent was a part of East Asia?
The reasons listed above are why Columbus Day has always been a matter of controversy. The celebration of the holiday is not just wrong because of its contradiction to history, but also because it is unfair to the Native American community for their possessions to be taken away from them so painfully like that. That is why many cities and states have switched from Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, starting with the city of Berkeley, California in 1993. There are some states who do not recognize this as an official holiday, however. South Dakota calls it Native American Day and Hawaii refers to it as Discoverer’s Day to mark the day Polynesians discovered the island. Though Oregon does not celebrate this holiday at all (even when it was referred to as Columbus Day), Portland has been celebrating Indigenous People’s Day since 2015. And yes, on the second Monday of October, we will be celebrating the 3rd Indigenous People’s Day.
However, school is still open, ‘Varks, so prepare your bag and still head to school, even when your friend in Seattle shouts over the phone about how she will spend her day-off!