Columbus Day? Why does the USA celebrate it?

Several American Indian and Indigenous groups have raised the very valid question about why Columbus Day is a national holiday.

Columbus did not "discover" any part of the modern day United States.  Furthermore, the Spanish colonization of the New World that he instigated was devastating, to say the least, to the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas.  He brought with him the international law of colonialism, the Doctrine of Discovery, and that legal principle has been used in all the countries of the New World to strip native peoples of their lands and rights.

Maybe the United States should stop commemorating Columbus Day as a federal holiday.

A friend just emailed me a joke card that says something like – Lets celebrate Columbus day by going into someone else's house and telling them we own it now. (I wonder how that would work??)


I have written a lot on the Doctrine of Discovery.

In August I completed an article that summarizes and compares
the work I have done over the past eight years in examining
how Discovery has been applied in nine different countries:
"The International Law of Colonialism: A Comparative Analysis,"
15 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. __ (2012)


Brazil, Indigenous Peoples, and the International Law
of Discovery, 37 Brooklyn Journal of International Law __
 this article has been translated into Portuguese.

The International Law of Discovery, Indigenous Peoples,
and Chile, 89 Nebraska Law Review 819 (2011): this article
has been translated into Spanish.

I started my work on this subject in a 2006 book
in which I examined the Doctrine in the United States -

In 2010, I co-authored a book from Oxford University Press
with Indigenous scholars from Australia, Canada, and New Z
ealand about the Doctrine in our four countries.


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3 Responses to Columbus Day? Why does the USA celebrate it?

  1. Dorian Brooks says:

    >(I wonder how that would work??)

    Sounds like a good idea! It might open some eyes…


  2. John D. Sens says:

    Like many other holidays Columbus Day is just a Monday off, with pay, for government workers and bankers. Few people really celebrate it except those of Italian heritage, particulary on the East Coast, where it is a festive day. Since the governments, federal and state, went to observing many holidays on Mondays, many have lost their original meanings and become just another day to shop at the mall. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Fourth of July and arguably Labor Day are remembered for what they are, but ask your teenager who President’s Day celebrates and you will likely get a blank look. The same is true of Veterans Day origins.

  3. Diane says:

    It’s still a lot of Controversy over Columbus Day being a national holiday. Some states don’t even acknowledge it. My job considers it a holiday so am fortunate to get it off.

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