on columbus day, a decolonizing group takes action

Decolonize This Place published a public letter about how New York can improve its decolonization efforts and led an anti-Columbus Day tour of the American Museum of Natural History.

by André-Naquian Wheeler
09 October 2017, 9:05pm

Getty Images/David McNew 

In August, the city of Los Angeles made the decision to remove Columbus Day from its official calendar — responding to the long-running deluge of passionate protests against the holiday and following the lead of major cities like Portland, Albuquerque, Berkeley, and St. Paul. And cities across the nation are facing similar, increasing pressures to rename or do away with Columbus Day entirely. Today, the nonprofit group Decolonize This Place held an anti-Columbus Day tour of the American Museum of Natural History for the second year in a row and called for Mayor Bill de Blasio to rename the holiday "Indigenous Peoples Day."

Decolonize This Place led a tour that presents alternative narratives (meaning not racist and white-centric) "developed in collaboration with communities and groups based throughout the city and beyond," the group wrote on Facebook.

"It's time for the Mayor and City Council to stand on the right side of history," the activists wrote in a public letter to Mayor de Blasio. "New York City sits on the territory of the Lenape, and over one hundred thousand Indigenous people live on this territory today — more than any other city in the United States! Let's honor the persistent presence of Indigenous Americans, despite attempts toward their elimination and reject the celebration of imperial conquest."

It's 2017, so hopefully we do not have to explain why honoring Christopher Columbus, a violent, racist colonizer, is incredibly insensitive to indigenous peoples. But if you're in any doubt, watch this video in which Native Americans reveal why they associate words like "pain," "confusion," and "ignorance" with the explorer's name.

And renaming Columbus Day is not all New York can do to improve its relations with the indigenous population, Decolonize This Place argues in its public letter. Some of its demands include removing the statue of Theodore Roosevelt, erected in 1940, from Central Park West. The monument features the former president flanked by a Native American man in a clear position of servitude. The group also calls for the city to move Native and African artifacts from the American Museum of Natural History to the Met, where Eurocentric Greek and Roman artifacts are housed. "Because New York's premier scientific museum continues to honor the bogus racial classification that relegates colonized peoples to the domain of Nature and the colonizers to the realm of Culture and Science," Decolonize This Place writes.

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Columbus Day