Columbus Day: Goodbye and good riddance

Growing up we had Columbus Day, a holiday that we have somewhat celebrated and known for years. Typically on Columbus Day, I would learn and talk about Columbus’ different ships or what he did. Only when I was younger because of how much it was unfortunately drilled into my brain. (I don’t understand this sentence)

More recently, the holiday has been renamed Indigenous People’s Day / Italian Heritage Day. I mean, sure we are happy to have that one Monday off from school and possibly even work. But was all this change necessary? 

Overall, by changing the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, the City of New York and the Department of Education has made a positive step forward in embracing the history of the Indigenous people, the ones who rightfully deserve to be celebrated and talked about instead of being overshadowed by a colonizer, while also making the history of this country a bit more accurate. 

Christopher Columbus was known for centuries as the person who discovered America. However, over the past few decades, his contributions have been called into question. He is known to have killed and enslaved the Native Americans already living in North America!

In a survey asking about the founding of America, over 50% of HS223 students who responded said that America was founded by Native Americans. However, about 24% still attribute the founding of America to Christopher Columbus. This demonstrates how much of a hold Christopher Columbus still has on the curriculum.


HS223 Survey Results on U.S Founders
HS223 Survey Results on U.S Founders (Jaslene Elegar)

Kevin Evangalista (Class of ’26) believes that the Columbus Day debate is not a debate at all.  No, Columbus was not the hero people said he was, he arrived at the continent, scammed the people, and gave them deadly viruses. These viruses went off to kill millions of Natives.”

Ms. Hernandez, a 9th grade Global Studies teacher, also feels like this should change.

“When you come across a land where there are already people living there, existing and have families, have lives that have culture,” she said. “It’s not another country or people’s job to manipulate that and to take it over to make it something new when there is already something there.”  

Hopefully in the future, more groups can be included and celebrated with months and days that are celebrated for different holidays. This should help the city recognize the hard work of Indegenous people while also teaching students the truth of America’s history.