In January, the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, covered over the murals depicting Christopher Columbus’ life. Notre Dame’s President, Father John Jenkins, explained in a letter, “In recent years, however, many have come to see the murals as at best blind to the consequences of Columbus’ voyage for indigenous peoples who inhabited this ‘new’ world and at worst demeaning toward them.”
On April 3, New Mexico’s Democratic governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. On April 26, Maine’s Democratic governor, Janet Mills, followed suit. On May 6, the Town Meeting of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe on Cape Cod voted to supplant Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. The following week, May 15, Vermont’s Republican governor Phil Scott replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. And evangelical Christian Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, acknowledged after two years, this May 15, that they had given their Christopher Columbus statue (a gift of the Columbus 500 Congress) to Catholic St. Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula.
Christopher Columbus has gone from celebrated explorer to historic persona non grata.
One of the main criticisms of Columbus is that he embodied “colonialism” — a catch-all term that can critique virtually anything. There was outrage in 2016 over the Saffron Colonial restaurant in Portland, Oregon, for having “colonial” in its name. Recently, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) claimed that cauliflower in community gardens is offensive. She said in an Instagram video of a Bronx community garden that growing cauliflower, rather than yuca, was a “colonial” approach to environmentalism. She defined the “colonial lens” as an imposition on native, indigenous practices.
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