Seattle School Board Votes to Observe ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Day’ on Columbus Day


The news: Columbus Day is next Monday, which means it's once again time for think pieces about the merits of celebrating a man who is responsible for one of the biggest genocides in the history of the world. But unlike these think pieces, one school board has put its money where its mouth is by changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day for its schools.

In a unanimous vote Wednesday, the Seattle School Board gave the controversial holiday a makeover and recognized that "the School Board has a responsibility to oppose the systematic racism toward Indigenous people in the United States, which perpetuates high rates of poverty and income inequality, exacerbating disproportionate health, education and social crises."

Good move. Instead of pretending Columbus "discovered" America and didn't establish a colonial system that led to thousands of Indigenous people's deaths, Seattle is recognizing the truth of the countries history.

"[T]he School Board recognizes the fact that Seattle is built upon the homelands and villages of the Indigenous Peoples of this region, without whom the building of the City would not have been possible," the resolution read.

This is a much-needed step to address a decades-old issue. While some Italian-Americans have voiced concern about taking away a holiday designated for an Italian explorer, Native American and human rights organizations have applauded the Seattle School Board's move to address America's sordid history with colonization.

Seattle isn't the first to take such a step: Minneapolis, Minnesota, Berkeley, California, and South Dakota also celebrate variations of Native Americans' Day or Indigenous Peoples' Day. These opportunities allow people, especially students, to learn the less-sanitized version of America's founding and have a more nuanced understanding of Native American history.

As Louis CK's fictional daughter incisively pointed out on Louie:

Image Credit: Tumblr/twoheadedshark

Or as cartoonist Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal points out, "And good ol' Christopher Columbus, sex slaver, mass murderer and champion of sociopathic imperialism, has his own federal holiday. This is an honor shared by Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. I repeat, the father of the transatlantic slave trade is honored on the same level as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr." 

Maybe it's time to change that.