For some, Columbus Day is federal holiday and a day off for many workers. For Native Americans, it’s not a day of celebration. It’s a day to remember the invasion of 1492 that led to murder, illness, robbery, rape, kidnapping, assimilation, and relocation.

It brings to mind how in the past many Americans viewed us as savages, but also a reminder that the current American government still celebrates a man who began a genocide.

Invisible in Our Own Country

As if we needed any more evidence of how invisible we are in our own country, our current inequalities are loud and clear. Native Americans have the highest rate of killings by police. Our suicide rate is three times the national average and the highest among 18 to 24 year olds. Our physical health fares worse than the national average and we have the highest rate of poverty in the country at 27 percent. Native American women are more than two times more likely to be sexually assaulted compared to the rest of the country.

Read “Whose History: In Recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”  Learn more about the Anti-Colonialism Rally on October 12 in Columbus, Ohio.

However, Native Americans are typically left out of the discussion on how to solve these problems. It’s no surprise that we also are left out when considering the appropriateness of celebrating Columbus Day.

 Our Demands

Instead of giving Christopher Columbus a holiday and pretending America’s ugly history did not happen, we could celebrate indigenous people.

I know I speak for many when I say Indigenous Peoples’ Day would bring honor to the Native Americans of this land. We’re resilient, intelligent, and passionate people. We have pride in who we are and a national holiday to commemorate us is a step in dismantling hundreds of years of racism and bringing awareness to the present.

The day will give us a voice to teach our history and the opportunity to discuss the issues at hand, including suicide prevention, health disparities, and environmental justice.

I am living proof of the failure of assimilation and the success of resilience by my Abenaki ancestors and all Native Americans. So much of our history and our current efforts have gone unnoticed.

We idle no more. We want acknowledgement and we demand change:

  • We want Indigenous Peoples Day.
  • We want the Christopher Columbus statues taken down.
  • We want our lives to matter.

Regina Morin is a former intern with the ACLU of Ohio.