The Columbus Day Controversy and Seattle’s Response

There has long been a controversy over the celebration of Columbus Day, much of which can be summed humorously but poignantly up in these memes:

columbus day 1 columbus day 2 columbus day 3

Informational Text Connection: If you’d like to discuss this controversy with your students, you can easily do it with a simple article about Seattle’s recent decent to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day on Columbus Day:

Here are few options:

From RT, a nonprofit new source: Seattle to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ day on Columbus Day

From Huffington Post: Columbus Day In Seattle Replaced With A New Holiday

This could work as a Socratic Seminar (which could be extended with additional text, maybe a poem by Sherman Alexie . . . see below, an article or first-person account of colonization in another part of the world, etc . . . ), a class discussion, practice with annotation and writing higher-level questions . . . anything.  If you’re taking a contemporary issues route, you could also relate this colonization in other parts of the world or illegal immigration issues in America.

And of course, this is timely for Monday, but it would work anytime with the ideas above, so if you’ve got the time and the desire, rock on. 🙂

Poetry Connection: Here’s “Evolution” by Sherman Alexie:

Buffalo Bill opens a pawn shop on the reservation
right across the border from the liquor store
and he stays open 24 hours a day,7 days a week

and the Indians come running in with jewelry
television sets, a VCR, a full-length beaded buckskin outfit
it took Inez Muse 12 years to finish. Buffalo Bill

takes everything the Indians have to offer, keeps it
all catalogues and filed in a storage room. The Indians
pawn their hands, saving the thumbs for last, they pawn

their skeletons, falling endlessly from the skin
and when the last Indian has pawned everything
but his heart, Buffalo Bill takes that for twenty bucks

closes up the pawn shop, paints a new sign over the old
charges the Indians five bucks a head to enter.

Short Story Connection: This would work well with “Poison” by Saki, which is in the freshmen textbook.

Multimedia Connection 1:This clip from a moving episode of “What Would You Do?” (on illegal immigration; takes place in New Jersey) might also be a nice tie in:

Visual Text Connection: Why Columbus Was Awful (an infographic) (From the Oatmeal, no author or sources cited FYI . . . . could be a discussion all on its own about what makes a source reliable, still valuable as one person’s belief, I suppose)

There’s plenty more you could pair this article with to get students engaged in a discussion about the deeper issues at stake for Columbus Day, including things on Italian American contributions to America (the other side of the coin, I suppose) and other relevant global issues.  But this is a great opportunity for students to practice digging deeper, thinking more globally, and understanding the implications of actions. 

If you have or find additional resources related to this issue, feel free to mention them in the comments for all to see!


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