The student government at Arizona State University has voted to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People Day. The Tempe Undergraduate Student Government Senate passed Bill 44 to rename the holiday after contentious debate on campus.
Christopher Columbus has long been known as an admirable adventurer in American lore whose adventurous spirit led him to “discover” America. But, in recent years his legacy has faced mounting criticism for the perceived negative effects his life had on Native Americans.
In the United States, Columbus Day is an official federal holiday. However, not all states recognize the day. South Dakota, instead, celebrates Native American Day. The name “Indigenous People Day” originated in Berkley, California, a city that began celebrating the holiday as an alternative to Columbus Day in 1992.
In Tempe, students were split on the issue. Those in support of the change believed that the bill was a positive way to commemorate the Native Americans whose lives they say were lost as a result of Columbus’s arrival to the New World. The opposition said the bill was an example of unnecessary political correctness. There was also another group that preferred that the campus do away with celebrating the day for either cause.
Many admirers of Columbus view him as a symbol of exploration, perseverance, innovation and the beginning of the American spirit. However, critics of the famous explorer paint a darker picture of the man, and more broadly, of European settlement of the New World that he represents. They often cite, for example, the diseases carried by European explorers like Columbus and his men, which caused the deaths of many Native Americans.