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  • Columbus Day became a federal holiday in 1937.

    Columbus Day became a federal holiday in 1937. | Photo: AFP

Just two months ago, the U.S. city was the scene of clashes when white supremacists arrived at a counter demonstration.

Charlottesville, Virgina's city council has voted to adopt World Indigenous Day in lieu of the United State’s national holiday, Columbus Day.

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“Indigenous Peoples Day shall be used to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous people on this land, and to celebrate the thriving culture and value that Indigenous nations add to our city,” the council said.

Just two months ago, Charlottesville was the scene of clashes when white supremacists arrived at a counter demonstration.

Violence ensued between the two groups, which led to one death and numerous injuries.

Once seen as the intrepid sailor whose 1492 landing in the Caribbean opened the door to a “civilizing” period for the continent's native peoples who were exposed to Christianity and modern society, the figure of Christopher Columbus now inspires the disgust of people of color in the United States who see him as the architect of the worst genocide in human history.

While Columbus never actually set foot in the territories now known as the United States, Columbus Day became a federal holiday in 1937.

Seen as an occasion to teach in schools about the dominant U.S. ideological themes of religion, patriotism and a pioneering spirit, the holiday was also celebrated by assimilating Italian immigrants and successive generations of Italian-Americans who used the day to celebrate pride in their heritage.

Historian Laurence Bergreen has estimated that when the nefarious “explorer” arrived in what is now the Dominican Republic and Haiti with a clear intent to subjugate locals, the Indigenous population was at least 300,000.

Through disease, enslavement, and violent dispossession, that number dropped to about 500 by 1550.


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