October 6, 2005

Native American Cornellians Protest Columbus Day

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Donning signs that read such phrases as “I was not discovered,” “Eradicate injustice – stop celebrating Columbus Day” and “What did Columbus discover? That he was lost?” the Native American Students at Cornell (NASAC) held their annual rally yesterday on Ho Plaza in order to voice protest over the celebration of Columbus Day.

Columbus Day, as most people learned in elementary school, is a celebration of the discovery of the “New World.” However, for people of Native American descent, it is a reminder of the beginning of the destruction of their society.

Nicole Wheeler ’07, member at large of NASAC, announced a resolution that NASAC wants to present to the University. This “Resolution of Support” requests that the name “Columbus Day” be changed to “Indigenous People’s Day.” The purpose will be to make the focus of the day more on celebrating the achievements and contributions made by these people instead of the destruction they faced at the hands of Columbus.

“We’ve been thinking about the resolution for a while now,” said Ben Koffel ’07, secretary of NASAC and organizer of the rally, “we’re hoping today we were able to introduce it to the community … [we think that] this is in better accordance with the ideals of the University.”

The rally consisted of various speakers, voicing to the audience their views on why this day should not be celebrated in the way that America does so now. It was the general consensus among the speakers that this day should be more focused on indigenous peoples.

“The University should be considerate not only of the injustices that occurred, but of the many contributions indigenous peoples have made to culture,” Koffel said.

One speaker, Jason Corwin ’02, teaching staff Schwartz Center, called the events following Columbus’s voyage “clearly and unequivocally genocide.”

“Why do people feel the need to celebrate genocide,” he said. “The crimes [committed by Columbus] were just as bad as Hitler’s. Hitler was stopped – Columbus’s legacy continues.” Corwin also went further, calling George Washington a ‘terrorist,’ and said that in fact every U.S. president since him has been given the translated name of ‘town destroyer.’

According to Corwin, every single treaty between Native Americans and the United States has been violated by the U.S.

Another speaker, Dana Brown, coordinator of the Committee on U.S.-Latin American Relations (CUSLAR), said that recent invasions of countries showcase the US’s “thirst for conquest.”

“By saying ‘no’ to Columbus and his day,” she said, “we are saying ‘yes’ to a future of respect and equality.”

NASAC plans to continue to host events for the rest of October and into November. Celebrating American Indian History month, NASAC will hold a variety of public outreach programs, some dealing with the impact of Columbus on Native American society.

Archived article by Emily Gordon
Sun Staff Writer