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Considering Columbus



For decades, an unwavering part of any elementary school curriculum in the United States was learning about the journey of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria across the Atlantic Ocean and along with it, the story of Christopher Columbus. The Italian navigator was exalted as the explorer who discovered America, and in 1937, October 12 became Columbus Day, a federal holiday. In the past 20 or so years, however, the narrative began to shift. Mentions of slavery, diseases and forced conversion began entering the conversation and the holiday’s status eroded. In 1992 the city of Berkeley renamed Columbus Day Indigenous People’s Day in recognition of the humans who were nearly wiped out in the centuries following Columbus’ arrival; Seattle, Portland, Albuquerque, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and other cities have since followed suit. Currently 22 states, California included, do not consider the day a paid holiday.

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