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  • Megan Ashbery

Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day? Canisius says “neither"

By Megan Ashbery

If you’ve happened to take a look at your class syllabus lately, you’ve probably noticed that we don’t have any classes this upcoming Monday or Tuesday. Although I’m just as stoked as the rest of you to not have to wake up at the crack of dawn and sit through an 80 minute lecture, it’s important to ask why we have these days off in the first place.

Canisius College formally recognizes Monday and Tuesday as “Fall Holiday” according to their academic calendar. However despite grade level, almost all schools in the United States have at least Monday off. This is due to the fact that it is Indigenous Peoples’ Day, also known as “Columbus Day,” which is a federally recognized holiday.

Despite Monday being considered a federal holiday, Canisius does not acknowledge the holiday on Monday alone. Instead, they categorize it along with the rest of Fall Holiday. Whether this is a means to avoid controversy, as the argument between labeling Monday as Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a contentious issue, or if it's just out of ignorance, these reasons do not excuse our institute’s idleness on such issues.

Although there is still a debate on whether to call this holiday “Columbus Day'' or “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,'' this argument is trivial. I mean, if we’re choosing between a guy that was responsible for enslavement, torture, sexual assault, murder (along with many other attrocities) and a race of people that have been mistreated and oppressed for several centuries, then the correct answer for what to call this holiday should be fairly obvious.

In disregarding this holiday, Canisius College casually overlooks their Indigenous population, which is a population already commonly overlooked in colleges and universities due to their small population size. According to the Postsecondary Policy Institute, which is an organization of federal policymakers that focuses on higher education issues, Native Americans make up only one percent of the United States undergraduate population. For these reasons, many Indigenous students are “invisible” in regards to the rest of the student population, due to both their small size and lack of recognition. This lack of recognition can be seen in our very own Richard E. Winter Student Center, as there are not any Native Nation’s flags displayed alongside the other countries' flags.

If you've read this far and still think, “It’s just one day. Why bother writing a whole article over it?” And to personally answer that question: it’s because Canisius College acknowledges several futile holidays, but they do not acknowledge a federal holiday that has cultural significance to an entire race of people.

In “futile holidays” I’m not referring to holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving, but rather the holidays that are barely considered to be holidays. For example, from last year to present day, Canisius College has recognized, or at least held events for, holidays such as National Cereal Day, National Ice Cream Cone Day, National Pizza Day, National High Five Day, and Valentine’s Day. Now, I’m not against celebrating these holidays, however these celebrations show that if Canisius can recognize the “National [fill in the blank] Holidays” then they have the ability to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day as well.

Even if you are not Indigenous (which is likely the majority of the people reading this article) I still urge you to advocate for the recognition of this holiday. Whether you personally know them or not, you attend college alongside Indigenous students – students that also attend school events, eat in the dining hall, and complain about the college workload to their friends just as much as you do. At the end of the day, we must all be “men and women for and with others.”

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