Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

Ferris continues to support Columbus Day, while community celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day

Despite one of Ferris’ core values being diversity, the university continues to support Columbus Day, a day that for many represents the genocide of thousands of indigenous people.

Indigenous Peoples Day is the celebration of people indigenous to the Americas as a counter to Columbus Day.

Ferris professor of biological sciences Scott Herron has served as the adviser for the Circle of Tribal Nations since 2011, when the registered student organization first began.

According to Bulldog Connect, the Circle of Tribal Nations is an organization open to students, faculty, staff and alumni that is dedicated to expanding public awareness and preservation of tribal cultures, both in the past and present. The Circle integrates diversity among tribal members in a safe and welcoming environment, enhancing personal growth.

Herron has been fighting for Ferris to adopt Indigenous Peoples Day for many years now, and after struggling to do so, has turned his efforts toward the city instead. In August, the city officially declared a proclamation recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day over Columbus Day.

Herron believes recognizing Columbus Day over Indigenous Peoples Day shows who people value more.

“Columbus represents an Italian and Spanish group of people who thought it was their right to travel anywhere in the world, name them what they wanted to name them, but didn’t even acknowledge who they were as individuals,” Herron said.

Although this was a very important victory for Herron, he was slightly disappointed that he was able to get more support from the city of Big Rapids than Ferris. Ferris political science, international studies and sociology senior Indra Iman Phillips would like to see more places recognize Indigenous Peoples Day.

“I think that it’s something the world should acknowledge,” Phillips said. “Of course, America should take the lead, not necessarily abandon Columbus Day, but rehabilitate the whole ideology of that day. Because I think to acknowledge or even celebrate a man who did colonize a whole group of people and ignore them and ignore their history is disrespectful. We live in a world where all generations are trying to be more inclusive and I think that’s great. I don’t think we should ignore Columbus Day, because we need to acknowledge history, but to embrace indigenous people and their culture and their history is so important.”

A common misconception is indigenous people only represent those native to the United States. Indigenous Peoples Day serves to represent those indigenous to the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Miseducation regarding Columbus Day and over Native Americans stems back to what is being taught in the education system. Ferris biology junior Abigail Gilmore could resonate with this.

“I just learned the basic information,” Gilmore said. “It wasn’t really touched on, aside from the discovery of the new land.”

At the moment, The Circle has nothing planned for this year’s Indigenous Peoples Day. In the past, the organization has hosted an assortment of events. Last year, the Circle displayed a banner in the University Center students could sign to show their support for Indigenous Peoples Day over Columbus Day.

To celebrate the day and the decision of the city of Big Rapids to adopt Indigenous Peoples Day, there will be an event at the Big Rapids Public Library 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14.

Columbus Day:

  • Supports the idea that Christopher Columbus discovered America
  • Honors Columbus’ coming to America in 1492
  • Became a federal holiday in 1937
  • Recognized by Ferris State University

Indigenous Peoples Day:

  • Supports the idea that Columbus didn’t discover America, but that he colonized it
  • Honors the native lives lost by Columbus’ colonization of America
  • Not a federal holiday, but became recognized in the United States in 1992
  • Not recognized by Ferris State University; recognized by the city of Big Rapids