Most of us have heard the rhyme: “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” There is a group of people who says Christopher Columbus did not discover America, nor should he be celebrated.
A drum group kicked off a day long celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day at Virginia Tech.
“It’s just a day to come together and celebrate the diversity of indigenous peoples, and honor their contributions to American society,” said Jason Chavez.
Chavez is one of a small number of Native American students at Virginia Tech.
“I am a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation. We’re located in southern Arizona,” he said.
He along with several members of The Native at Virginia Tech feel that all Americans should take this time to celebrate indigenous people instead of Christopher Columbus.
“For too long, in the United States, we have celebrated a colonial myth. Columbus did not discover America. He did not land in what is now considered America,” he said.
Chavez says Columbus routinely wrote and spoke about forcing Native Americans into slavery.
“So he’s no man we should celebrate. Instead we should be celebrating the first peoples of this land,” said Chavez.
Here in Southwest Virginia, the Monocan and Tutelo Peoples are our indigneous peoples. Chavez says Roanoke, Blacksburg, and even Virginia Tech is on what was Monocan land.
“The Monocan Nation has contributed to this land for so many years, and bringing Monocan students and given honor to their contributions is really important to us. We have one Monocan student here today out of 30,000 students,” he explained.
At the end of the day, Chavez and his friends hope to spread a message of coming together to celebrate diversity and traditions of all indegineous peoples.
Virginia Tech is actively trying to get the 2nd Monday of the month of October to be declared Indigeous Peoples Day so the campus can celebrate it annually.
According to History.com, many take Columbus Day as a day to celebrate the explorer’s achievements, and also to celebrate Italian-American culture.