Columbus Day in South Dakota hasn’t been an issue since 1989 when the state Legislature, at the urging of then Gov. George Mickelson, declared it would be called Native American Day in South Dakota. Since 1990 the second Monday in October has been celebrated as Native American Day in the state as part of Mickelson’s declaration that 1990 would be a “Year of Reconciliation” with Native Americans in South Dakota.
The impetus behind all of this was Native American journalist and newspaper owner Tim Giago who visited with the governor about the state of relations between non-Indians and Indians in South Dakota. Giago suggested changing the name of the holiday and celebrate it as Native American Day. Mickelson also recognized the need to improve relations with Native Americans in the state and made the declaration of 1990 being the “Year of Reconciliation.”
Columbus really wasn’t seen as a villain in South Dakota like he is now in several cities that are looking at changing the name of the holiday to Indigenous People’s Day. He is now seen in the rearview mirror of many as the one who wrought disease and slavery on the New World, which they say he didn’t actually discover. In fact, Columbus did introduce all of Europe to the so-called New World.
Yes, the Vikings probably were here centuries before Columbus, but Europeans knew nothing of this new land far across the ocean. And, yes, there were Indians living here when Columbus arrived, but again, this land was totally new to Europeans.
We would hate to see Columbus made out to be the bad guy for merely landing his three ships here in 1492. The fact that he thought he was in India and named the natives here Indians is not exactly a good testament to his navigational skills on the high seas.
Nevertheless, he doesn’t deserve to be villainized in the same manner that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee has been just lately. Some statues of Columbus have been defaced with paint thrown on them in the same manner that statues of Lee were torn down and removed recently.
We need to keep some kind of historical perspective in this country so we don’t lose track of who we are and where we came from. Columbus was not the bad guy some people are making him out to be. Let him rest in peace.