Staff Editorial

Goodbye, Columbus: Iowa justified in replacing holiday

The burial site of Meskwaki chief Peosta stands near the Julien Dubuque Monument in Dubuque on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. Dubuque, a French trader and one of present-day Iowa's first European immigrants, mined lead from the Meskwaki's land and was married to Peosta's daughter, Potosa. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
The burial site of Meskwaki chief Peosta stands near the Julien Dubuque Monument in Dubuque on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. Dubuque, a French trader and one of present-day Iowa's first European immigrants, mined lead from the Meskwaki's land and was married to Peosta's daughter, Potosa. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Iowa joined a small but growing number of government entities this week in observing Indigenous Peoples Day.

The second Monday in October typically is reserved for Columbus Day, a federal holiday honoring Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World in October 1492. In recognition of evolving views about Columbus’ explorations and his human rights record, some cities and states are ditching the holiday.

Gov. Kim Reynolds proclaimed Monday as Indigenous Peoples Day in Iowa, a first for the state.

In Eastern Iowa, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors and Iowa City Council made similar proclamations. The Iowa Department of Human Rights says the day is meant to “promote appreciation, reconciliation, understanding, friendship and continued partnerships among all of its people and the Indigenous Peoples of this land.”

We think it’s about time. Recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day is a small but important step in correcting widespread and dangerous misunderstandings about our history.

Under Iowa law, the governor is “authorized and requested” to proclaim Columbus Day, while the ode on holidays and recognitions includes no mention of Indigenous Peoples Day. While government proclamations largely are symbolic, changing the code to remove Columbus Day would be a good idea for the next Legislature.

The truth is Columbus never discovered the land we call the United States. The places he visited were all south of here, and he probably never even knew the North American continent exists. Plus, Europeans already had visited the Americas as part of a Norse exploration of what’s now Canada, nearly 500 years before Columbus. Most importantly, the places Columbus “discovered” already were inhabited by millions of people.

Historical records show Columbus and his associates had little regard for the lives or well-being of the people they encountered.

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Their arrival marked the beginning of painful chapter in the history of the Americas, subjecting millions of indigenous people to looting, violence, slavery and disease.

Columbus Day is a relic from a time with a distorted view of history, placing undue emphasis on honoring European explorers, and failing to acknowledge their many failings. Iowa, rich with indigenous heritage, is well suited for this change. That’s why we join in celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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