It is time to stop celebrating the crimes of Columbus and stand in solidarity with the Indigenous people who demand an end to Columbus Day. Instead of glorifying a person who enslaved and murdered people, destroyed cultures, and terrorized those who challenged his rule, we seek to honor these communities demanding sovereignty, recognition, and rights. We encourage schools to petition their administration and for communities to introduce legislation to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Below we provide information and resources to join the campaign to Abolish Columbus Day.
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Time to Abolish Columbus Day
By Bill Bigelow
When the school curriculum celebrates Columbus, children are taught that it’s OK for white people to rule over peoples of color and that militarily powerful nations can bully weaker nations. By his own account, Columbus enslaved people, destroyed cultures, and terrorized those who challenged his rule. It’s time to abolish Columbus Day.
Resources from the Zinn Education Project
Abolish Columbus Day Packet (PDF)
A 14-page packet that includes sample resolutions, resources, and articles.
Related Lessons and Resources
Campaigns and Other Actions
Sixth-grade students in the Plattsburg, New York School District led a campaign to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Here are the steps they took:
- Sept./Oct.: Co-teachers undertake a critical study of Columbus using primary sources, including Columbus’s own journal. Students decided to propose to the school board to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
- Nov.: At the school board meeting, students recommend to the board to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day on school calendars, effective 2016-2017 school. Vote is postponed to allow time for community feedback.
- Dec.: Motion made at the school board meeting to change the name. Vote postponed in order to give students time to get the opinions of local Native Americans on this topic.
- Feb.: The Stafford Middle School’s 6th-grade students provided the board with the feedback they received from Native Americans on changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, as requested. The students were pleased with the overwhelming support for the name change. Vote taken, passing 5-2.
Sources: Press Republic, WAMC Public Radio, and BOE meeting minutes.
Notes from the Classroom
Suzanne Caruso, middle school teacher
|Students wrote a letter to the principal, hosted an all-school meeting with local Indigenous leader Annawon Weeden, and had members of the community sign a petition asking the state of Massachusetts as well as city of Cambridge to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. “What started as a debate turned into an opportunity for students to expand their thinking and serve as agents of change in their communities.”|
Laura Farrelly, high school teacher
|Students wrote letters to the editors of local newspapers and the city council. One letter got published inspiring others to write. “It was a powerful lesson in civics especially since my students are disenfranchised and feel like they don’t have power to effect change politically.”|
Matthew Venditti, 8th grade teacher, Amherst, MA
The town of Amherst’s decision to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day was inspired by a proposal from 8th grade students from Amherst Regional Middle School. Students in Matthew Venditti’s social studies class studied and discussed the issue in Fall 2015, and then some interested students formed a group called Student Advocates for Change. They encouraged the town of Amherst to change the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, presented their arguments twice to the town’s Human Rights Commission, invited State Rep. Ellen Story to hear their arguments, presented to the regional school committee, and finally made a presentation to Amherst Town Meeting on May 18, 2016, which is the date Town Meeting approved the change. [Description by the Amherst Education Foundation.]
Related article: Teens lead the fight against Columbus Day in Massachusetts. Here’s why they care.
Add Your Story
Explore the states, cities, towns, and schools where Columbus Day has been abolished in the interactive Abolish Columbus Day map. Click the arrow icon on the top-left to filter by type of place (school, district, city, town, or state). Click on the icon on the top-right to expand the map.
If your school or town does recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day (or a similar holiday) and not Columbus Day, let us know. We’ll put you on the map.
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Christopher the Ogre Cologre, It’s Over! – New Children’s Book Challenges Columbus Narrative from an Indigenous Perspective
My group, The Red Handed Warrior Society, secured recognition of Indigenous People’s Day for the City of Dallas and Dallas County in 2019, and in the City of Ft. Worth and Tarrant County (Ft. Worth) in 2020.
It is good that progress is being made to inform citizens on the truth about Columbus. It is an essential element of educating all citizens about the real history of the United States. Teaching the truth about the methods and actions employed in establishing our nation. Broad citizen understanding of such deplorable historical facts is vital to preventing future national wrongs.
Eliminating Columbus Day as a celebratory holiday is important. Particularly because the vial acts and crimes against native peoples by Columbus established and justified subsequent continuation and expansion of horrendous practices by others.
However, care must be taken to ensure such truths and facts do not end up in the dust bin of history as a result of removal from the national conscience. Establishing an Indigenous Peoples Day is a good goal in and of itself. It is, as Bill Bigelow points out (https://www.zinnedproject.org/if-we-knew-our-history/time-abolish-columbus-day/ ), “a day to commemorate the resistance and resilience of Indigenous peoples”. But it is also a day to “look deeply into each nook and cranny of” our true national founding and development from Columbus onward. Fortunately, we have the writings of men like Howard Zinn as sources of history facts and the Black Lives Matter movement model to draw on.
As Howard Zinn made very clear, there are the school text books and teaching materials real history challenges. It would be quite valuable to have a national, as up to date as possible, status on the scope and progress for these two real history challenges. This will require effort but is important for targeting expenditure of limited resources. The Zinn Education Project is working diligently on the teaching materials challenge. However, there is still the need to understand the broader scope and status for both challenge arenas. Classroom teachers have first hand knowledge directly relevant to these challenges. Coordinated information gathering from these folks would be essential to this effort. Is anyone aware of an existing real history scope and progress status effort for the United States?
Our students don’t understand the truth and the real history. Historians and educators like Zinn and Loewen, and organizations like beforecolumbusfoundation.com have to be appreciated and endorsed in schools nationwide. I can recall watching educational “propaganda” films shown to youth, like the ones produced in Nazi Germany screened for The Hitler Youth, or in North Korean elementary schools, and thinking there wasn’t all that much difference in the way the US structures its curriculum: heavy on patriotic idolization of flawed history and untruths.
My name is Sonia Noemi Cross (married name). I am born and raised in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico. I was told by my father’s family that my paternal grandmother was a Taino woman. My sister and I are Taino and we were not told about Cristobal Colon (christopher columbus). Instead we said, “La tierra de borinquen donde he nacido yo, es un jardin querido de magico fulgor. Cuando a sus playas llego Colon, exclamo lleno de admiracion…”
There aren’t many of us left, but we’re still here. Thank you Zinn Education Project. Thank you Mr. Howard Zinn.
On Friday, October 9th, Governor Northam proclaimed that Virginians would celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day!
I’m thrilled Michigan has made the change to Indigenous People’s Day. In my small 96% white community I made this face book post for this year:
Monday is Indigenous People’s Day. I am not an indigenous person and I am no expert regarding indigenous people. But I would like to honor the indigenous peoples of our country and of this area the best I know how. For any who would like to join me, I plan to be at the park in front of Kroger on MONDAY, OCTOBER 12 at 6:30 pm. I will be sharing a land acknowledgment and reading the 2010 U.S. apology to Native Peoples (don’t worry it is short!) I will also have handouts available with resources pertaining to things I have been learning over the last six months for those who might like to learn more about Native Peoples histories. All are welcome.
In Vermont we will celebrate Indigenous People’s Day on Monday….so happy to live in a wise, free state- I met Howard Zinn at Siena College many years ago-lucky me!
Flagstaff, AZ celebrated Indigenous People’s Day starting 2019, and Arizona also converted this year, 2020. Please see link below and thank you for this campaign:
Arizona just announced 2020 is the first year to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day!! See: https://news.azpm.org/p/news-topical-politics/2020/9/23/180654-governor-says-indigenous-peoples-day-to-be-celebrated-in-2020/
All of Oregon celebrates IPD because Governor Brown has proclaimed it for several years for the whole state: https://www.eastoregonian.com/news/local/indigenous-peoples-day-serves-to-move-past-columbus-day-woes/article_7c65e3ee-eead-11e9-a8f7-6f2d8693458f.html
You can add the East Hartford, Connecticut school board (and hoped soon…our Town Council) to the map!
In your estimation, are efforts to abolish best driven by students and supported by adults in the community? Or, are efforts to abolish that are led by adult community members (teachers, parents, etc.) equally effective?
It truly disgusts me that as a child growing up we were taught to honor such a sick & cruel individual. I remember coloring pictures and reading about how he discovered the americas. Invaded, not discovered. Its absolutely terrible and horrifying that there is a national holiday based on this monster. Why not give hitler a national holiday and brainwash millions of kids saying he did great things as well. Christopher Colombus day ABOLISHED & Indigenous Peoples Day applied nationally! No more brainwashings children, the native people of The Americas & there ancestors deserve justice!
Beaverton, Oregon City Council passed an Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution Tuesday October 4 2016
Resolution is here: http://beaverton.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=1674&meta_id=86108
Truth must be shared. I grew up with this fabrication and deliction of appropriation, no more. When I learned the truth about 55 years ago, I denounced this dedicated day. I advocate for Indigenous Peoples Day.
Finally! Someone is seeing through the hypocrisy of this fictional holiday. I’m for renaming it Indigenous Peoples Day. Zinn’s book should be a MUST read for all students.
Is there a petition to sign?