This past Monday, Harvard students enjoyed a day off a school courtesy of Columbus Day—a day historically fraught with controversy given Christopher Columbus’s dark history of crimes against indigenous people. In this light, Harvard’s choice to quietly add Indigenous People’s Day alongside Columbus Day to the calendar is a good one.
We find it almost unnecessary to reiterate that we do not support glorifying a man who abused and slaughtered thousands. The precedent set by his actions is at least partially responsible for European colonization in the Americas, which caused the genocide of millions of people. To celebrate Columbus blindly is to ignore an overwhelming history of colonialism, genocide, and racism.
While we support Harvard’s decision to add Indigenous People’s Day alongside Columbus Day in its official calendar, this move also appears half-hearted and calculated to avoid controversy and potential bad press. Forcing indigenous people to share a University holiday with the man who symbolizes their abuse is cruel and inappropriate.
We urge Harvard to fully replace Columbus Day instead of remaining content with acknowledging both holidays side-by-side. We see little reason to keep Columbus Day in the calendar when Indigenous People’s Day is a clear alternative. Furthermore, there are other ways to acknowledge the long history of suffering caused by Columbus, such as helping to educate students and others about the legacy of Columbus.
In light of this historical legacy of suffering inflicted upon Native Americans, we commend the years of activism by Native American students on this issue. We must never forget that the College is built on native land and was first established partially with the goal of educating indigenous youth. Recognizing Indigenous People’s Day is a small step toward honoring this legacy.
Cambridge City Council has taken the right step to formally recognize Indigenous People’s Day as a holiday and fully replace the celebration of Columbus Day last year. As support for this holiday increases, we hope that, while the wrongs of history can never be fully mended, they will at least receive the attention they deserve. Acknowledging Columbus’ true legacy strips away a comfortable narrative, but we as a nation cannot build our history—or our holidays—on such a shoddy foundation.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.