I come from Laguna Pueblo and the Yuma Nation, and even in my small reservation border town ― where many of us children were Pueblo, Apache, Ute and Navajo ― Columbus Day was taken seriously by my elementary school teachers. We honored the Italian explorer, coloring pictures of the ships Columbus captained to “discover” our homeland. We took red crayons to the crusader flag, never realizing then that it was the same color as the blood our ancestors shed during colonization at the hands of Columbus and his Spanish conquistadors.
I’m a Native woman, but my husband is an Italian immigrant born and raised in Italy. Columbus Day is an important federal holiday for many Italian-Americans of the baby boomer generation, and I understand why: Many of them remember a time when their grandparents were considered outsiders in this country and faced violence and oppression as a result.