Columbus Day is intended to celebrate the "discovery" of a "new" continent by Europeans, which led to colonization and the founding of the United States of America. This Euro-centric perspective marginalizes the reality of Indigenous peoples, and perpetuates a false sense of patriotism at their expense. The Green Party of New Jersey does NOT support celebrating the genocide and other atrocities committed by Europeans, and later the U.S. government, against Indigenous peoples.
GPNJ calls for the upcoming holiday to be renamed Indigenous People's Day. This holiday should be refocused to bring into mainstream American consciousness the continued existence of Indigenous peoples in North America, both as individuals and as sovereign nations. It may include a celebration of Indigenous cultures and the crucial roles Indigenous peoples play in protecting our environment - including our water. Most importantly, Indigenous Peoples Day should draw attention to the treaties made between the United States and Indigenous nations, which are being ignored by all branches and levels of the U.S. government.
Because Columbus was Italian, some may raise concerns that such a change would offend the large Italian-American population in New Jersey. However, the current holiday does not do justice to Italian-Americans or their culture:
"As a third-generation Italian-American, I take great pride in my cultural heritage," said Laura Genna, resident of Bloomfield, NJ. "I celebrate it by enjoying the things that make it great: the best food in the world, large family gatherings, freedom to express ourselves with gusto. This heritage is about love, connection, loyalty, and welcoming new members into an ever-growing family. That is not reflected in Columbus Day."
When asked about Indigenous Peoples Day, Green Party member Dr. Margo Simmons replied, “I am all for having a day devoted to the Indigenous people of this continent! But what it highlights is the fact that the Indigenous people of the United States of America have been forgotten about, given up ‘for dead,’ as it were, by most Americans. All of those treaties that were made between the U.S. government and the Indigenous nations have no meaning now. Why are they not laws?”
Dr. Simmons also expressed hope that Indigenous People’s Day “can be used to stimulate the state’s and the country’s thinking on justice, equality, sovereignty, and the principles that were expressed in those treaties. Hopefully, this thinking will result in positive actions for Indigenous peoples regarding self-determination and sovereignty throughout the year.”
The Green Party of New Jersey urges New Jersey residents and politicians to act on the American values of justice and equality. Replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.