Commentary: Canceling Columbus at American Universities

by Corey Walker


For years, Campus Reform has covered the trend of colleges across the country replacing Columbus Day with “Indigenous People’s Day.” Fueled by concerns of honoring “colonialism” and “genocide,” universities are opting for scrapping remembrance of the explorer all together.

University of Michigan History and American Culture Professor Gregory Dowd is one of many academics who assert that the country as a whole needs to end Columbus Day recognition completely in favor of Indigenous People’s Day. His view was promoted by the university ahead of the holiday this year.

Dowd reasons that early supporters of a holiday honoring Columbus “sailed with currents of white supremacism that were cresting in the United States.”

“The advocates of Columbus, like most American citizens, did not reflect on the lives, contributions and experiences of Native Americans,” Dowd explains. “These were not taken seriously, if taken at all. In celebrating Columbus’ so-called discovery, they were overlooking (or worse, supporting) his violent efforts at conquest.”


Dowd notes that advocates of Indigenous People’s day “say that to celebrate a killer of Indigenous people is to dishonor humans” and emphasize that “Native Americans, not Columbus, were first to this hemisphere.”

“They say Native Americans deserve more of a place than Columbus as founders. They say that they are not to be erased,” Dowd explains, adding “They have had some success so far, and Indigenous Peoples Day is being celebrated on an increasing scale.”

And, as Campus Reform has documented, Dowd is correct. Support for Indigenous People’s day is indeed growing, especially on college campuses.

Syracuse University is among a growing number of universities that regularly honor Indigenous People’s day. The university started recognizing the new replacement holiday in 2016, and now hosts annual celebrations of indigenous culture on Columbus Day.

Advocates for Indigenous People’s Day at Syracuse hope that it will inform more people about the history of Indigenous Americans along with their struggles.

“It’s nice to for once feel visible, even if it is just a day,” said Indigenous student Jordan Goodwin, according The Daily Orange.

The University of Wyoming will also be hosting an Indigenous People’s Day celebration in lieu of Columbus Day this year. The event, called, “Indigenous Peoples Day Every Day” will be hosted on Monday, Oct. 11.

The event will “feature stories and speakers to honor Indigenous Peoples Day across the U.S.”  Laramie County will officially announce its recognition the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day during next Monday’s event.

The University of Oregon will celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day with events held by The Museum of Natural and Cultural History. The event will celebrate and encompass 14,000 years of history from the past to present.

The University of Michigan also commemorates Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Students called for the University to recognize the day back in 2017. Last year, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a proclamation to celebrate the day throughout the state.

Campus Reform reached out to Gregory Dowd for comment, but he has not responded.

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Corey Walker is a Michigan Campus Correspondent. He was a student at the University of Michigan majoring in History and English and finishing his degree at Washtenaw Community College.
Photo “Happy Columbus Day, America!” by oriana.italy.






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