Northern Utahns weigh in on Columbus Day controversy — and what to do about it

ANN ELISE TAYLOR, Standard-Examiner Staff

Salt Lake City officials have decided that in addition to Columbus Day, the city will recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday in October.

The decision is part of an ongoing national dialogue aimed at ousting the celebration of Christopher Columbus and instead honoring the Americas’ native people. 

“Singularly focused on his mission to find riches and conquer new lands, Columbus and his teams treated the indigenous groups they came across as obstacles to their greater mission,” the History Channel’s website says. That meant enslaving indigenous people, using violence against them and forcing them to convert to Christianity, it says. 

One side argues the holiday inappropriately glorifies these actions and should be eliminated; the other argues it’s important to recognize Columbus’ historical significance.

Instead of eliminating Columbus Day or celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day at a different time, the Salt Lake City Council unanimously approved them being on the same day. This comes right before the holiday, which is Monday, Oct. 9.

During the 2016 state legislative session, Sen. Jim Dabakis, a Salt Lake City Democrat, sponsored a bill to recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day, but that measure failed in the Senate and never got a chance for debate in the House of Representatives.

We asked our followers on Facebook to tell us what position they think Ogden-area cities should take on the issue. Their comments are included below. 

Don Moore: “Did you ever consider that this might not be about whether or not it is offensive, but rather whether it is morally right to celebrate a man who committed genocide on indigenous people?”

Eladio Pauel Flores: “To be 100% honest Christopher Columbus wasn’t exactly that great of a man. He thought he was going to India and called Native Americans ‘Indians’ and didn’t even bother to learn about them in the slightest, he just saw that they had no idea what a sword and rifle were and knew he could take them over easily. It only took him 3 days to decide that he wanted to turn them all into slaves, it’s kind of silly to celebrate that kind of person this day in age. He didn’t even discover the modern day United States, he landed somewhere in the Bahamas and explored South America. So saying it’s part of our history exactly isn’t even accurate.”

Mario Battisti: “What a slap to the Italian's faces!!!!! I take pride in me heritage and all they have done for this country. Strongly disagree with this!”

David Nelson: “No. We can't keep changing every thing just because it might offend or trigger someone else”

James M. Kirwan: “I had an idea to rename Columbus day to ‘Explorer's Day,’ It would cover everyone from Lewis&Clark to our intrepid space warriors at Nasa. Then people could ignore the individuals they're uncomfortable with and celebrate discovery in general.”

Laura Lidia Gonzales: “Yes. Whether we like it or not his actions brought on a genocide and enslavement of an entire population across the Americas. Indigenous populations are still suffering to this day from mistreatment that started back then.”

Mike Sargent: “Yes. Chief Joseph, Sitting Bull, Geronimo and Red Cloud are all more deserving of a national holiday than Columbus is.”

Clint Harper: “He should be remembered in history for what he did... but not celebrated. I’m not sharp on Italian history, but I’m confident that there are others more worthy of having a dedicated day. If celebrating Native American people is so unpalatable for our state at least celebrate a worthy Italian.”

Rayven Rizer: “Anything is better than Columbus day. As the parent of a child who is part Native American I disdain the idea of her being taught in public schools that she should celabrate a man who tried to make sure her people didn't exist. It is a terrible feeling. He and his followers perpetrated just as much rape, pillaging and genocide as hitler, so why is one good and one bad?”

Jane Scott: “My god get over changing holiday's it's just plain stupid so tired of people getting there feelings hurt over nothing let the past go and look to the future and make it better than the past.”

Debbie Campbell: “Hmm, I'm part Native American, Spanish and Italian. I'm really mixed. I guess as a history buff, I'm ok with keeping Columbus Day. The United States has an ugly history in the way they treated Native Americans, so to single out Columbus doesn't seem fair. It really continues to this day. Read Killers of the Flower Moon. Also look what they did to the pipeline demonstrators in North Dakota. It's always about who has the power and the money. Changing the name of a holiday shouldn't erase the abuse of the past or that still continues.”

Stacy Gunnell: “How about we just cancel it completely. Then nobody is offended.”

Richard Schoenfeld: “I welcome a day to honor the indigenous people of this nation. But why ‘celebrate’ it on the same day?”

Ann Elise Taylor can be reached on the phone at 801-625-4213, by email at aetaylor@standard.net or on Twitter at @annelise_taylor.