While many people are enjoying a holiday and celebrating Columbus Day, we encourage you to examine what Columbus Day really honors. Columbus Day celebrates an exploitative European who made a career off of brutally enslaving Indigenous people in the Caribbean. This explorer’s discovery was the first in a long, tragic series of events in which Europeans and their descendants victimized the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas.
Given this history, some cities have recently changed the name of this holiday to Indigenous People’s Day. Seattle, Minneapolis, Portland, Lawrence, Kansas, and others have taken the bold step of acknowledging past atrocities in a very public way. But changing the name of a holiday will not bring about equality for Native Americans in the U.S. or the indigenous people in any other country in the western hemisphere. More has to be done.
One step that many Mennonites have begun to take on this journey is to educate themselves and their communities about the Doctrine of Discovery. This is the doctrine that Europeans used to commit one horrendous atrocity after another against indigenous people in the Americas. For Christians, it is particularly galling to learn that our faith was twisted to be used in such a manner.
Sadly, many Anabaptists and other Christians today are unaware of the problems their faith has caused in the past, and continues to cause today. We encourage you to examine the resources below and share them with your friends, family, and church. Let us all take time today to remember the true implications of Columbus Day: death and devastation for indigenous people, and a legacy of that that lives on today. Let us strive to practice the kind of Christianity that Jesus calls us towards, not the false kind that for too long has been used to exploit others.
What is the Doctrine of Discovery? – Fact sheet from the Menno Creation Care Network
Responding to the Doctrine of Discovery – Article from an Native American Mennonite scholar
Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery – a documentary and other resources are located here about and for Mennonites who are working to dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery and its far-reaching effects