The movement to abolish Columbus Day and to establish in its place Indigenous Peoples Day continues to gather strength, as every month new school districts and colleges take action. This campaign has been given new momentum as Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas assert their treaty and human rights. Especially notable is the inspiring struggle in North Dakota to stop the toxic Dakota Access Pipeline, led by the Standing Rock Sioux.
Dave Archambault, chairperson of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, explains that the oil pipeline “is threatening the lives of people, lives of my tribe, as well as millions down the river. It threatens the ancestral sites that are significant to our tribe. And we never had an opportunity to express our concerns. This is a corporation that is coming forward and just bulldozing through without any concern for tribes.”
The “bulldozing” of Indigenous lives, Indigenous lands, and Indigenous rights all began with Columbus’s invasion in 1492. Columbus’s policies toward Indigenous peoples in the Caribbean were genocidal. On the island that became Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Columbus ordered Taíno people’s hands chopped off if they did not deliver sufficient quantities of gold. His men took women and girls as sex slaves. He had Taínos chased down by vicious dogs. He ordered his men to “spread terror” among Taínos who resisted—and they did resist. And he launched the transatlantic slave trade—from the Americas to Europe, as well as from Africa to the Americas. “Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold,” he wrote.