By Vanessa Parker
It’s that time of year again.
Every second Monday in October, I get asked the same question –” How do you feel about Columbus Day?”
First of all, let me tell you about my background. I am a former elementary school teacher. I am a member of the Seneca nation, one of the six Iroquois nations. As one of my tasks as a former teacher, I used to do speaking engagements and presentations about my life as a Native American. In case you were wondering, this isn’t an unusual question to ask me.
A lot of my people don’t consider Columbus Day to be one of honor. They consider it to be the beginning of our demise. They think that it’s Columbus who is directly responsible for the annihilation of first the Taino people, the indigenous nation that Columbus and his fleet encountered upon their arrival here. Once he made contact, there were other nations who came here for varied reasons. But it all started with Columbus.
My people, the Seneca, encountered the French first and then the British. They arrived here not long after Columbus, an Italian, sailed here from Spain. As each nation of people came– the Spanish, the Portuguese, the French, the Dutch, the British– less indigenous people survived. Some died due to disease. Others were killed in wars. Some of us survived. There are approximately 8,000 Seneca people left on earth.
My answer to the question, “how do you feel about Columbus Day?” is this. I personally don’t honor it. I prefer to think about it as being any other day. Honestly, I never really thought about it until I became an adult
and more people started asking me about how I felt. I don’t go to any parades. I don’t eat veal, the official meat of Columbus Day. I don’t go shopping or take advantage of any of the Columbus Day sales.
I choose to see Columbus Day as a reminder that my people have survived, and we don’t need a parade or a designated day to do that.