Bil Browning

Columbus Day Open Thread

Filed By Bil Browning | October 10, 2011 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Christopher Columbus, Columbus Day, federal holiday

Since it's a holiday and we're starting out late, let's kick off the day with an open thread.

800px-Christopher_Columbus3.jpgColumbus Day is somewhat controversial in some regards. While the explorer simply wanted to establish a trade route, his discovery led to the enslavement, robbery, forced religious conversions, and deaths of thousands of people native to the Americas.

Some not-for-profit social justice organizations don't take the day off while others do. The Task Force doesn't; National Stonewall Democrats does. It's a federal holiday, but should it be?

Do you see anything wrong with celebrating Columbus Day as a national holiday? Or should we change ti to something else - maybe "Discoverer's Day" to honor the Vikings and Africans as well (who were making the trip long before the Spanish "found" the western continents). Perhaps we should just think outside the box and come up with an entirely different holiday.

Got any suggestions?


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I don't know if it's fair to say that Columbus was just trying to discover a trade route when one of the first things out of his mouth when he met the Arawak was what great slaves they'd be and bragged that he could conquer the whole island with only 50 soldiers. He enslaved several of them in his first trip, and later refused to baptize people on the island of Hispaniola because the Pope forbade the enslavement of Christians.

He was one of many at the time, although the fact that he was tried in Spain for torturing natives shows that he was more extreme than his contemporaries.

Oh well. It's my understanding that columbus day wasn't celebrated until the 20th century... Wikipedia confirms that it was made a national holiday in 1937. Wikipedia also has information on alternatives:


Hawaii and South Dakota are the two states that do not recognize Columbus Day at all, though both mark the day with an alternative holiday or observance. Hawaii celebrates Discoverers' Day, which commemorates the Polynesian discoverers of Hawaii on the same date, the second Monday of October.[13] though the name change has not ended protest related to the observance of Columbus' discovery.[14][15] The state government does not treat either Columbus Day or Discoverers' Day as a legal holiday;[16] state, city and county government offices and schools are open for business. South Dakota celebrates the day as officially a state holiday known as "Native American Day" rather than Columbus Day.[17] Nevada does not celebrate Columbus Day as an official holiday; however, the governor is "authorized and requested" by statute to proclaim the day each year.[18]
Several other states have removed Columbus Day as a paid holiday for government workers while still maintaining it either as a day of recognition or a legal holiday for other purposes. These include California,[19][20][21] Texas,[22] and Florida.
In 2007, Dane County Wisconsin Supervisor Ashok Kumar replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People's Day.[23] The city of Berkeley, California has replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People's Day since 1992,[24] a move which has been replicated by several other localities.[25] Two other California cities, Sebastopol and Santa Cruz, now celebrate Indigenous People's Day.[25] South Dakota renamed the holiday "Native American Day".[26] Various tribal governments in Oklahoma designate the day "Native American Day", or name the day after their own tribe.[27]

David Castillo David Castillo | October 10, 2011 1:12 PM

How about we just get rid of the holiday altogether? I'm conflicted by it since my civil rights org gives us the day off. Of course, everyone loves a day off work. I'd suggest a harvest holiday, but I guess that's what Thanksgiving is. Let's just make Halloween an official holiday!

Jesse Monteagudo Jesse Monteagudo | October 10, 2011 4:27 PM

In much of Latin America, "Columbus Day" is observed as "el Dia de la Raza" (the Day of the Race). It commemorates that fateful day in 1492 when Native Americans and Europeans first met, which led to the creation of the multiethnic, Hispanic or Latina/o "Race."

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | October 10, 2011 4:40 PM

Actually, Bil. I can take it or leave it. Please just somebody tell me whether we're honoring Columbus, Ohio, Columbus, Goorgia, Columbus, Indiana. Since I can't think of any other states at the moment, they don't deserve a holiday anyway.

I am so relieved to hear that a smart guy like you, Don, is confused about stuff like this. So am I.

But even more perplexing, I can't figure out why a country as big as the U.S.A. put its Capitol Building and White House and other main government buildings in a little district that actually belongs to a country in South America. I must have fallen asleep in history class sometime during my childhood -- but when did a bunch of natives from the Andes Mountains invade the Potomac River tide basin? And today, why are the people running the District of Columbia up here so uptight, when the mother country in South America grows what is probably the best marijuana in the world?

It just don't make no sense.

Oh, Don! ... Let's not forget Columbus, Mississippi, the birthplace of our famous and talented cohort, Tennessee Williams.

Om Kalthoum | October 10, 2011 4:48 PM

I don't get any paid holidays, just like I don't get any medical or dental care. I do know that many cities and states are going broke while some folks have lots of vacation and sick time at their disposal. Of course, many European countries put us to shame in the benefits they provide their workers. I don't care much one way or the other about Columbus Day. I remember "in fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue."

So, since it's an open thread, how about this: Woman does Chicago Marathon at 38 weeks pregnant, gives birth less than 8 hours later. Oh yeah, she went into labor during the race, but kept on running/walking until the end. I guess she's Pro Choice with a capital P and C? As you might imagine, the story has generated hundreds of comments on the Tribune site.

This one I can explain ... the woman had to finish the race before giving birth, because all along the marathon route there were signs that said ... NO LITTERING

Om Kalthoum | October 10, 2011 8:51 PM

Strangely, there were very few humorous responses online. Most folks on both sides of the issue were rather self-righteous in their opinions, me included.

I do wish they had provided a photo or video clip of her hauling it down the boulevards.

I'd run faster. Wouldn't you? There's obviously a finish line coming up soon in that situation.

Me? I'd burst into tears, sit right down and demand an ambulance, RIGHT NOW!!!

As a woman of Native American descent, I'm appalled by history, but accept that it was, in fact, history. And as my high school history teacher was fond of saying, "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it."

On the other hand, the fact that it is currently a fed holiday was what initially enabled my now-fiancee and I to have our first date, as she worked for the USPS at the time and it was the only way to set anything up because she was off Columbus Day. So, I guess I have to be grateful for small favors :P

I would abolish it and make it, "Native American Heritage Day".

I'd also make all high school kids read, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown, which is the single best American history book I've ever read.