After studying and researching claims of “Who Really Discovered America?” the North Branch School 7th and 8th graders decided to act upon what they learned. The class wrote a letter proposing Columbus Day no longer be a holiday and suggesting alternatives. Their request went to Senators Kaine and Warner, Representatives Hurt and Goodlatte, and President Obama:
We are a group of Middle Schoolers from North Branch School in Afton, Virginia. We have been studying the “discovery” of America, and we would like to propose a new holiday instead of Columbus Day. Christopher Columbus should not have a day named for him. Instead, we think there should be an Indigenous People’s Appreciation Day (IPAD) or a Discoverers’ Day.
Columbus was a cruel, selfish person. He decreased the Taino population (the native population of Haiti) by millions. Before he arrived, the estimated population was 8,000,000. Fifty years later, the Taino were almost extinct because of attacks, suicide, illness, kidnapping, and more. The Spaniards went on to enslave other people, too, including the Maya, Aztec, and Inca people. Columbus mistreated so many people and then took over the Indians’ land. For example, he cut off natives’ noses, ears, and hands, forced them to gather gold and cotton for him, and attacked them with dogs. He kidnapped and enslaved hundreds of Taino and sent them back to Spain. Many didn’t survive the trip. He mistreated women, as well. To make matters worse, he did not discover America. There were millions of people already in the Americas when Columbus arrived. Therefore, we think Columbus should not have a national holiday named after him. It’s like winning the Nobel Peace Prize for starting a war!
We think the USA should change the name of the holiday to Indigenous People’s Appreciation Day or Discoverers’ Day. We think that schools should teach about all the people who were already here, and all of the explorers who made trips to America, whether they were discoveries or not. These explorers all deserve recognition for their effort. The Indigenous People deserve appreciation for their sacrifices, such as their lives, land, resources, beliefs, rights, and way of life.
This new holiday would be a way of recognizing the contributions of many people to America. Removing Columbus’s name from the holiday acknowledges that he is not someone we want to emulate. Changing the holiday would help people be more aware of our history and not repeat the past. We hope you agree and will work to make this happen. (We just heard that Vermont and Colorado have already changed their holiday’s name!)
Victor, Luke, Baylan, Kieran, Rysun, Julian, Emily, Francesca, Wilson, Elizabeth, Ailey, Leza, Sage, Ty, Ian, Russell, Nhandi, and Ella
Students in the Middle School Class
(Teacher: Katrien Vance)
North Branch School
P.S. We still would not like to have school on whatever holiday we have.