Veterans For Peace believes that the federal holiday commemorating the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the “New World” is an affront to Indigenous peoples everywhere and particularly to native peoples of the Americas. We denounce the celebration of a person who carried out mass killings and genocidal acts against Indigenous peoples and paved the way for European colonization of native lands and enslavement of native peoples.
We recognize that the annual observance of Columbus Day here at home and our continued wars and occupations abroad are rooted in racism, xenophobia and militarism. Our mission of Peace at Home, Peace Abroad includes the commitment to seek justice for all victims of violence and war. Accordingly, we urge our government to no longer honor a person who committed atrocities.
Veterans For Peace understands that the struggle for Indigenous rights cannot be decoupled from other movements for equality and justice, such as Black Lives Matter and Palestinian liberation. We believe that violence and injustice must be challenged and ended in all its forms and that human dignity must be protected and defended. The Columbus Day holiday is a symbol of oppression and a violation of this dignity.
Movements for Indigenous rights and sovereignty are ongoing across the world – from struggles to protect water and sacred land in foreign places such as Latin America, the Caribbean, Mexico, and India to one specific struggle here at home, the Standing Rock resistance against the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota (read our solidarity statement).
Veterans For Peace acknowledges the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which “establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, well-being and rights of the world's indigenous peoples.” The United States was one of only four nations to vote against the Declaration in 2007 when it was adopted. However, in 2010, the United States changed course and announced its support for the Declaration.
In an open letter to President Obama in 2014, historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz beseeched Mr. Obama to change the Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Dr. Dunbar-Ortiz closed her letter with this appeal: "It’s time for the United States government to make a gesture toward acknowledgement of its colonial past and a commitment to decolonization. Doing away with the celebration of Columbus, the very face of European colonialism, could be that gesture. In its place proclaim that fateful date of the onset of colonialism as a Day of Solidarity and Mourning with the Indigenous Peoples.”
The Columbus Day holiday is one barrier to the healing of the deep wounds of this nation’s violent founding and colonization and to the recognition and protection of Indigenous rights. We, therefore, call on the federal government to join the more than two dozen U.S. cities, including Phoenix, Denver, Seattle and Minneapolis, and the states of South Dakota and Vermont, in replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.