Each year the recognition of Columbus Day places Indigenous Peoples in a painfully uncomfortable position. In the year 2011, as Native people in this country, we still must explain our feelings about a historically inaccurate, national holiday.
The fact that Christopher Columbus did not "discover" America seems to fall on deaf ears. The fact that his landing on our soil did usher in over 500 years of greed, death, and degradation of unprecedented magnitude also eludes otherwise attentive ears. So, once again, as Native people, we confront another year of educating those who insist that Columbus is a figure worthy of national adoration.
We ask that on this Columbus Day, a reflection of historical facts be observed. By the time European colonizers arrived, Indigenous people had already been on this continent for more than 20,000 years. We were farmers, scientists, astronomers, artists, mathematicians, singers, architects, physicians, teachers, mother, fathers, and Elders living in sophisticated societies.
These societies lacked nothing and had everything to give in the way of wisdom and knowledge. We object to a false and hurtful holiday that perpetuates a vision of a land open to conquest of its Native inhabitants, their highly evolved societies, and natural resources. We stand in solidarity with the call to transform Columbus Day by not recognizing and honoring the day as Columbus Day.
Suzanne Benally (Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa)