The Minneapolis City Council was expected to consider a motion Friday, to change the name of “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous Peoples Day.”
I don’t have any great affection for Christopher Columbus, but I have long thought that we ought to call our holidays for what they are. That means, call them the way most Americans celebrate them.
That being the case, it would mean, change “Columbus Day” to “Duck Hunting Day.”
The problem with that is that then we would have to change Veterans Day to “Deer Hunting Day” and veterans have a much larger constituency than Columbus.
Thanksgiving is on the verge of being changed to “Start of the Christmas Shopping Season Day,” although that designation is always in flux, so it may not work to keep it on the fourth Thursday in November. Before long, it would be the fourth Thursday in September.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday would probably be called, “After Christmas Bargain Day,” and Presidents’ Day is rapidly becoming, “Escape the Winter Blahs by Going Somewhere, Anywhere Day.”
Memorial Day is “Open the Cabin Day” and Labor Day is “Close the Cabin Day” while the Fourth of July is “Go to the Cabin to Watch Fireworks over the Lake Day.”
You get my drift, but I’m not making preparations to take credit for any of those changes soon. Altering public opinion is like melting a glacier when, except for the Minneapolis City Council, governmental bodies have more important things to do.
But back to Columbus vis-a-vis indigenous people, it makes sense to change the name from Columbus to something else, particularly if you believe, as most of us do, that Norwegians beat Chris here by several hundred years, and the ones the Minneapolis Council are probably referring to as “indigenous” beat the Norse by several thousand years.
However, I think they can do better than using “Indigenous People” to designate whatever it is they want to designate.
I mean, we could change Presidents’ Day to “Indigenous People’s Day” without blinking an eye because all U.S. presidents have been indigenous, in spite of what the birthers say about the current White House occupant. Washington was born here; so was Lincoln.
The only people not indigenous are the current crop of immigrants.
I kind of like the idea of changing it to “Pioneer Day.” When one thinks of the tremendous challenges involved in conquering two continents that were mostly wilderness, it took a tough-minded group of people willing to risk all in order to overcome more obstacles than most of us modern-day sissies care to take on. I mean, not only did they have no health insurance, they had no health care. When the banks went belly up, there was nobody to save the economy. At night, instead of watching “Dancing with the Stars,” they sat under the stars, slapping mosquitoes.
The problem with “Pioneer Day,” is that to be a pioneer, one needs a frontier, and this nation hasn’t had a traditional frontier for 125 years.
Instead, the frontiers we have today are mostly mental. In my mind, everyone could get behind celebrating those people who have gone proverbally where no people have ever gone before. A “New Frontiers Day” could be just the ticket to build unity and community — honoring those people who have truly made the world a better place.
This could include explorers, some of whom have better reputations than Columbus, but it also could include Thomas Edison, who figured out how to light the world, or the Wright Brothers, who discovered how to fly over it, or Jonas Salk, who invented the polio vaccine that has prevented lifelong suffering for tens of thousands of people.
My concern is that the politically correct crowd that dominates the Minneapolis City Council has something else in mind. They may claim that the reason to have an “Indigenous Peoples Day” is to pay long overdue respect to the people we used to call Native Americans until somebody realized that they were here long before we called this hemisphere “America.”
However, they could do so without knocking Columbus out of the history books, if they wanted to. Instead, it seems like the idea is to make the rest of us indigenous people, whose families may have shown up near the meeting of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers only 150 years ago, feel guilty, like maybe we shouldn’t be here.
Sorry, but as an indigenous Minnesotan, I don’t feel guilty about calling this state “home.” And I’d rather celebrate a holiday with a name that all the indigenous people who live here can embrace, not just those who were first on the block. That would be a holiday that celebrates the ingenuity of the human spirit and the great advances made by perseverance combined with scientific achievement.
That’s not “Columbus Day” or “Pioneer Day.” It’s “New Frontiers Day.” But if that doesn’t work, don’t forget that no matter what one calls it, it’s really “Duck Hunting Day.”
Tom West is the editor and general manager of the Record. Reach him at (320) 616-1932 or by email at [email protected].