Columbus Day Still Needs to Be Defended
One year ago, I made my debut in The American Conservative describing my alma mater’s efforts to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day, a microcosm of the effort to erase the American nation and replace its history with something more “diverse.” The work of these cultural arsonists has, unfortunately, continued nationwide.
Over the past 12 months, New Mexico, Vermont, Maine, and Louisiana have become the newest states to disassociate themselves from Columbus Day and rename the holiday after an amalgamative term for the continent’s native inhabitants. They join a growing list of states and other localities, including Columbus, Ohio. Yes, the explorer’s namesake declined to celebrate him last year, the first non-observance since the city’s founding.
(One place the name change failed was New Hampshire, where a bill passed the state house but died in the senate. Though its failure was not due to a lack of endorsements.)
“My view on this is why would we not want to honor indigenous people?” said Senator Elizabeth Warren in January. “These were the people who were here. These were the people who in Massachusetts reached out and helped the first settlers to Massachusetts Bay colony and helped them survive those first harsh and rugged years.”
Warren masqueraded for decades as someone of native descent, including describing herself as “American Indian” on her 1986 Texas Bar registration card. A 1997 Fordham Law Review article billed her as the “first woman of color” to teach at Harvard Law School. A DNA test last year proved definitively that she is as little as 1/512th American Indian. Her deception shows that she would much rather honor (and identify with) the native people than the European settlers they helped.
“There is power in a name and in who we choose to honor,” said Maine Governor Janet Mills as she signed a bill to recognize Indigenous People’s Day.
But national holidays ought to be just that: national. They should honor the nation’s history, founding, and culture. Holidays are not about inclusion or diversity; they’re about unifying and bonding. They’re about celebrating everything uniquely American, not removing it.
Student groups, however, don’t share that understanding. Reminiscent of my own George Mason University, the student government at the University of Oklahoma voted to remove the Pledge of Allegiance from their congressional agenda and linked it directly to Columbus Day.
“It was written as a celebration of Columbus Day in 1892, and in the city of Norman we don’t celebrate Columbus Day, we celebrate Indigenous People’s Day,” said the student senator who authored the bill. “I was really able to connect with a lot of the international students and them saying thank you for writing it.”
Why are foreign students given precedence over what holidays Americans celebrate? Aren’t they studying here to experience and appreciate our history and culture? Not to the students at GMU or OU, who are taught by professors like Elizabeth Warren to hate anything related to the arrival of Europeans on American shores.
Last year, a week prior to Columbus Day, the century-old bronze statue of Thorfinn Karlsefni in Philadelphia was knocked over into the Schuylkill River. Karlsefni was a Viking explorer, an associate of Leif Erickson, and the father of Snorri Thorfinnson, the first European child born in the Americas. Even without the baggage that discolors Christopher Columbus’ legacy, the Karlsefni statue was still decried as racist and a monument to white supremacy before its defacing.
At its core, the movement to destroy Columbus Day has nothing to do with the Italian explorer’s morally despicable actions in Hispaniola. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who established Columbus Day as a federal holiday in 1937, described the real reason in his 1940 celebratory statement:
The courage and the faith and the vision of the Genoese navigator glorify and enrich the drama of the early movement of European people to America. Columbus and his fellow voyagers were the harbingers of later mighty movements of people from Spain, from Columbus’s native Italy and from every country in Europe. And out of the fusion of all these national strains was created the America to which the Old World contributed so magnificently.
The primary motivation of activists (and sometime vandals) who want to institute Indigenous People’s Day is their hatred for European exploration, the original sin of the modern world. Cultural arsonists seek to correct this through a systematic replacement of the descendants of European colonization. Tearing down our nation’s heroes is a first step to tearing down the rest of the historic American nation. Don’t let them.
Happy Columbus Day.
Hunter DeRensis is a reporter for The National Interest. Follow him on Twitter @HunterDeRensis.