October 15, 2009

BIA celebrates Columbus Day

Questioning BIA’s Columbus holiday

By Leeanne RootDuring a session at the recent 66th Annual Convention of the National Congress of American Indians in Palm Springs, Calif., a tribal leader brought up the issue of the BIA celebrating Columbus Day as a holiday and letting workers take the day off. The chair suggested the BIA was not culturally sensitive to tribal communities when it gives special notice to Columbus Day.

Columbus Day in the United States is celebrated Oct. 12, and has been a U.S. federal government holiday since 1934. The holiday was established through long term lobbying efforts from the Italian-American community and the Knights of Columbus, a Christian society.
And:Should the BIA celebrate the federal holiday? The BIA is a federal agency and must conform to federal rules and regulations. The establishment of Columbus Day as a federal holiday was initiated by an executive order from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Executive orders originate with and can be modified by the president. If Columbus Day was established by an act of Congress, then it might be much more difficult to change.

It will probably be impossible to abolish Columbus Day as a federal holiday, but the BIA has a unique relation to American Indians that includes fostering political and cultural development and relations with the U.S. federal government. Justifications could and should be made to the president to withdraw the BIA’s obligation to celebrate Columbus Day. Renaming the holiday to American Indian Day or something similar may remind many Native people about the day when the harsh treatment of indigenous people began.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Columbus Toppled in Venezuela, Schools Put Columbus on Trial, and Rough Seas for Columbus Day.

1 comment:

Rob said...

Patrick G. Barkman's response on Facebook:

Wait, wait, wait, are you saying that the BIA was insensitive? Shocked, shocked and appalled am I by this spurious accusation against our benevolent bureaucratic overlords!