Last year I spent several months in the United States researching Native American cultures. I was there for Columbus day in October. It is intended as a celebration of the anniversary of Christopher Columbus arrival and the ‘discovery’ of America. To say Columbus discovered a place which was already home to 500 distinct tribal groups and over a million people is now surely an outdated concept.
Americans have been slowly rejecting this notion for a few decades now and Columbus Day has declined in popularity as a result. The parades that used to be a feature were often blocked by demonstrations from Native Americans in the 1990’s haven’t happened in most cities for many years.
The counter to Columbus day, which has rapidly gained momentum across the country (nine major cities were added in 2015), is the official move to also declare the day Indigenous Peoples day. In some States it is also referred to as Native American Day or American Indian Day.
For most Americans, the celebration of national pride and culture has shifted to Independence Day - the 4th of July.
It might be time for Australia to consider officially declaring the 26 January as our Indigenous peoples' day alongside Australia Day and acknowledging the 500 distinct tribal groups and estimated 500,000 people who called this land home for tens of thousands of years, before the arrival of Europeans in the 18th century.
I am not Aboriginal but I certainly understand the feelings of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people who reject the celebration of the loss of their sovereign rights, their land, their languages, their families and culture. I am a proud Australian but I’m not proud of the way this country was taken and the way Aboriginal people have been treated. It might be time to reconsider what Australia day means to all of us.