People protested the Columbus Day Parade in Denver in 2011.

Carol Berry

People protested the Columbus Day Parade in Denver in 2011.

Reimagining Columbus Day Without Columbus

South Dakota calls it Native American Day, while in Berkeley it’s known as Indigenous People’s Day—though the latter celebrated this year’s version last weekend, on October 5.

Either way, the goal is to deflect attention from what has been known as Columbus Day since 1937, and marks the anniversary of the day that Christopher Columbus arrived in a world that was new to him. It may or may not catch on nationwide, and the Columbus Day holiday may or may not be abolished someday. But the alternative celebrations serve as an educational tool to get the message out that what happened back then is not what it seemed. Although only Berkeley and South Dakota have officially swapped out indigenous celebrations for Columbus Day, such commemorations are taking place all across what is known as the United States, as points out. 

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations has stepped up with an actual action plan that includes studying the Doctrine of Discovery, which it has repudiated. Major strides have been made over the past few years with the renunciation of the Doctrine of Discovery by several churches. The Unitarian Universalists have issued a 10-point list of actions one can take to “reimagine Columbus Day.”

“The Unitarian Universalist faith calls us to fully understand the legacy of Christopher Columbus, just as it calls us to respect and learn from Indigenous Peoples and support their struggles for social justice and religious freedom,” the church says on its website. “Join Unitarian Universalists across the United States in honoring Indigenous Peoples Day.”

The church works with the Berkeley Indigenous Peoples Day, though that has already been held this year. From creating a Sunday service around Indigenous Peoples Day, to reaching out to Native communities, to screening movies, holding book discussions and educating youngsters, the Universalists create a thorough outline complete with resources and links.

" 'Indigenous Peoples Day' reimagines Columbus Day and changes a celebration of colonialism into an opportunity to reveal historical truths about the genocide and oppression of indigenous peoples in the Americas, to organize against current injustices, and to celebrate indigenous resistance,” the Unitarian site says.

Much more is available at Indigenous Peoples Day on the Universalist Unitarian website.

RELATED: Columbus Day Protest Widens


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Reimagining Columbus Day Without Columbus