September 12th is a day in honour of Native Americans. A marginalised group facing oppression and centuries of colonialism, what exactly does this day mean to them?

The day was actually started in opposition to Spain’s national day- a day celebrating the land of Christopher Columbus in America, marking one of the bloodier parts of Spain’s history. Columbus didn’t ‘discover’ Southern America as much as he did abuse it. And for Spain to be celebrating this day is to ignore the privilege and history they have. They are celebrating the brutal carnage of the Natives. 

I interviewed one of my friends who immigrated from Latin America but lives here what she thought about this mass celebration. ‘They shouldn’t be calling it a discovery’, she says. And rightly so! It wasn’t like Columbus created America- the ‘discovery’ is really just the European arrival.

 I asked her about the influence of Native culture that still remains in her home country- and there’s hardly any. When Europe arrived, they wiped out almost all of the indigenous people’s culture. 

‘Most Native culture in Buenos Aires [where she’s from] did get wiped out. I lived there for almost a decade, and I don’t think I’ve seen anything, really. We speak their language, celebrate half their festivals. The only only things that spring to mind that were ours are the mapuches in the south- Native owned businesses. But even that’s being destroyed-the richer citizens are trying to take away the mapuche’s land. Next time I go back, I doubt even half the Native’s land will remain.’

I ask her about her feelings on ‘Columbus Day’ as a whole- about how it’s celebrated, if at all, back home. ‘It’s called Day of Respect to Cultural Diversity there.’, she answers. ‘Doesn’t really translate well into English without sounding clumsy, but the message gets across. We don’t celebrate it, but we do recognise it. It’s a ferido- it isn’t a holiday, exactly, but nobody goes to school or work. But it isn’t really like you see Natives celebrating their culture- it was all wiped out. There’s usually an assembly in school, the next day, talking about how wrong Columbus was.’ 

The effects of colonization never end when the oppressing country leaves. As someone who’s family is Indian, I know this first hand. But indigenous and black people face this more than any other group. Spain didn’t just take away the freedom of Natives living in the Americas in the 1600s. Spain- and any country that colonises (in other words, almost any western European country) took away a continent's history and culture, crudely replacing it with its own in a quest for power. And that isn’t the current citizens of Spain fault! But by celebrating this ‘Columbus Day’, they continue to condone past actions. And this idea that we should celebrate these horrific acts in the past, which is rampant not only in Spain, but in our own country, is a disease. ‘Columbus Day’ shouldn’t be a celebration at all.