Genocide of natives shifts opinion on cultural holiday


Denis Perez / The Advocate

A partial map of native tribes and nations in the United States before the Columbus colonization period.

By Roxana Amparo, Associate Editor

Cities throughout the nation continue to adopt Indigenous Peoples’ Day over Columbus Day as that holiday holds a dark past of the torture and murder of millions of Native Americans.

Christopher Columbus sailed the Atlantic Ocean in 1492 and colonized Native American land.

“Why celebrate a terrorist instead of celebrating the Native Americans and talking about what really happened in the U.S.,” Contra Costa College psychology major Enrique Duarte said.

Duarte said it’s important to learn the truth and not the lies about what happened to Native Americans on their land 500 years ago.

The Geneva Conference held on Sept. 23, 1977 in Geneva, Switzerland, established Oct. 12 as the international day of solidarity with indigenous people of the Americas.

With this decision, native people took a stride as it was their first time to speak for themselves at a United Nations conference.

At the conclusion of the conference, Columbus Day was deemed International Solidarity Day with American Indians.

“It means that we have made a very large part of the world recognize who we are and even to stand with us in solidarity in our long fight. From now on, children all over the world will learn the true story of American Indians on Columbus Day instead of a pack of lies about three European ships,” John Curl, founding member of the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Committee wrote on Berkeley’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day website (

In the 1977 Geneva Conference supporting native recognition, over 60 indigenous peoples and native nations were represented, including Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico and Peru.

The resolution in the 1977 Geneva Protocol states that evidence brought forth by the native people was enough to prove the discrimination and genocide committed against those communities.

“Brutal colonization paved the way for the plunder of their land and resources by commercial interests seeking maximum profit. The massacre of millions of native peoples for centuries and the continuous grabbing of their land deprived them of the possibility of developing their own resources and means of livelihood. The denial of the self-determination of indigenous nations and peoples destroyed their traditional value system and their social and cultural fabric.”

These acts resulted in the destruction of the indigenous nations.

Although some people lean toward changing the name of the holiday from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day to commemorate and honor those cultures, some less invested activists see it as just another day of the week.

Many show their support for changing the holiday’s name by putting on festivals or other community gatherings.

In October of 1992, Berkeley was the first city to get rid of Columbus Day and begin the Oct. 12 Indigenous Peoples’ Day holiday.

Berkeley celebrates the day by annually hosting an Indian market and Pow Wow.

This year it was canceled due to the unhealthy air quality lingering through the city caused by Napa and Sonoma wildfires, Indigenous Peoples’ Day Coordinator Gino Barichello, on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Planning Committee, wrote on Berkeley’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day website.

The event holds space for Native American dance, songs, foods and arts and crafts.

Just this year the state of Ohio and the city of Bangor, Maine abolished Columbus Day and embraced Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a holiday.

CCC biology major Luis Gonzalez said knowing the history of the U.S., the genocide and the fact that Native Americans were robbed of their land, there isn’t a “real” reason to celebrate Columbus Day.

“I think it’s more important that we celebrate indigenous people and, most importantly, celebrate their resistance because they are still here.