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Ohio State student government to vote on changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day on campus

USG General Assembly convenes on Sept. 9. Credit: Teresa Cardenas | Lantern Reporter

The holiday that celebrates the city’s namesake will be called into question Wednesday when Undergraduate Student Government votes on a resolution during its weekly general assembly meeting.

The resolution, if passed, suggests that administrators officially rid Ohio State of Columbus Day, a federal holiday created to honor Christopher Columbus’s arrival to the Americas in 1492. The resolution also proposes to replace the holiday with Indigenous Peoples’ Day to recognize cultures that are native to the Americas prior to European settlement.

USG cannot enforce this policy, as its general assembly resolutions are only suggestions to university administrative policies. This suggestion would call for more educational activities to bring awareness to the contributions of indigenous people during its day of celebration.

Co-sponsor of the resolution Alex Leeder, a fourth-year in theater and the USG director of diversity and inclusion, said the committee is not creating the resolution to change the way Ohio State observes Columbus Day, because it currently does not close offices or cancel class on the day it takes place.

Instead, Leeder said the resolution seeks to simply change the name that might bring stress to students.

“I don’t necessarily think that we are trying to do anything radical and change anything that happens about the day, I just think it’s reconstituting the name,” Leeder said. “I know that it is an incredibly triggering and problematic thing for a lot of Native American people especially on campus.”

The holiday and the people involved have a complicated history.

Columbus Day was officially recognized as a national holiday by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1934, but it was celebrated for centuries in the Americas. The holiday has been at the center of controversy due to Columbus’ and other explorers’ treatment of indigenous people.

The holiday and its recognition of Columbus received pushback when Berkeley, California, became the first city or state to recognize the counter-celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival.

For this year’s Columbus Day, Oct. 9, four states, 57 cities and three universities recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day, with the majority using it as the direct replacement of Columbus Day, according to Time Magazine.

There are no Big Ten universities that recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Oberlin is the only Ohio city that recognizes the replacement.

Not all of USG hopes to see this resolution pass.

Nick Davis, a fourth-year in natural resources management, and USG member said that he will be voting a “resounding no.”

He said Columbus’s contributions to history are too important to be switched with another holiday.

“You wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be here, none of us would be here if Christopher Columbus hadn’t brought Western civilization to America back in 1492,” Davis said. “The indigenous people who were here before Christopher Columbus, they weren’t civilized people and so he created a connection between Europe and what became the Americas. It’s something that happened in our history that is not going to go away.”

Instead, Davis said he suggests that Ohio State create a separate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on a different day, while also continuing to recognize Columbus Day.

The idea to replace Columbus Day was spearheaded by the Council of Graduate Students, USG’s graduate school counterpart. It introduced the idea to the undergraduate caucus and the Inter-Professional Council, the graduate professional school equivalent, after CGS passed a similar resolution Sept. 29.

Leeder said if the three governing bodies that represent the student body want to further this policy by passing similar resolutions, it would be a powerful testimony to take to administrators.

He said there are no plans set for what the day of recognition would look like. Co-sponsor Farhan Quadri, a fifth-year in biological engineering and a USG engineering senator, said the holiday would be seen as a day to validate a community that hasn’t been given enough attention.

“We’re paying respects to those students that the day would be for or to pay respect to their contribution to the university, their presence at the university, their validation and their history,” Quadri said.

The vote will take place during the general assembly meeting Wednesday in the Ohio Union Senate Chamber.

8 comments

  1. The student gov’t has passed many questionable resolutions, but this one would rank up there with the very worst if passed. You don’t want to stress students out? What next, take away grading, everyone gets a participation degree? I got news for you, life has stress, and the stress that any student may have (but probably really doesn’t) from Columbus Day is nothing compared to real life stress. Just wait till you gotta start paying off those student loans…

  2. Not very inclusive

    “We’re paying respects to those students that the day would be for or to pay respect to their contribution to the university, their presence at the university, their validation and their history,” Quadri said.

    So are we going to create a day for every group of students? Why are you singling out 1 group of students to pay respect to and not others. Why don’t you just create an OSU student day, to pay respect to all students and their contributions to the university?

  3. As an alumnus of The Ohio State University, it would cause me great stress each and every time I saw a reference to honor the indigenous people. Nearly my entire family was wiped out by the indigenous people during a raid of my family’s small community. From all accounts, there was not a single member of that community that was at war with the indigenous people, yet they killed nearly everyone.

  4. http://www.pottsmerc.com/opinion/20170903/dave-neese-cleaning-up-our-historical-act

    DAVE NEESE: Cleaning up our historical act

    “We must seize this opportunity to indulge ourselves in smug moral righteousness, in “virtue-signaling,” as it has come to be named. “

  5. I find this offensive to my Italian ancestry, honestly a group persecuted more in America than Natives on a larger scale.

  6. As a person of Irish and German immigrants that came to America, I am offended.
    How about how the Irish were treated when they came here?
    And how about being categorized as a Nazi because of my German roots?
    This is a “trigger” for many Irishman and Germans (I am sure of this).
    We should have recognition to the Irish and Germans who had to be harassed and degraded by the Europeans here in America!

    DOES ANYONE HEAR HOW STUPID THIS SOUNDS? It is exactly how these clueless kids sound trying to replace recognizing Christopher Columbus.
    Listen, I have no problem giving recognition to the Indians and their culture. And it is a shame that many people died (on both sides) during all of those conflicts. However, this is our history. You can’t wipe out history. You are supposed to learn it so as to not repeat it.
    It is hard to fathom what the Nazis did to Jewish people but you don’t erase it because you don’t like it. How about what Britain did to the Irish during the potato famine?

    When the hell did people become so weak minded that celebrating Christopher Columbus day “triggers” them??

  7. Way to go CGS!
    Once again showing how grad students can lead the way and encourage change for the better on campus.

  8. As an Indigenous member of the faculty here at OSU I am encouraged our undergraduates engaging this topic and bringing this conversation to campus.

    I wouldn’t personally characterize the celebration of Columbus as “incredibly triggering” – I think that’s an overstatement that makes the effort sound more radicalized than it is. This suggested shift is largely an effort to educate about the pre-colonial histories and cultures of people in the Americas and their unique relationship in emergent post-colonial society, which is not widely taught in American schools. In line with that, I find it fascinating that Mr. Davis would go on record with his statement that “[the Indigenous people of the Americas] weren’t civilized people.” The need for this educational effort presents itself evidently in his remarks as well as many of the other comments here.

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