Why Mt. SAC Dropped Columbus Day

MEChistas and NAISA fought to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day

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Photo courtesy of Mt. SAC MEChA.

You may have noticed that Christopher Columbus Day is no longer mentioned in our student handbooks, calendars or anywhere campus. Three years ago, the holiday was changed to Indigenous People’s Day, thanks to the hard work and activism of Mt. SAC MEChistas and the Mt. SAC Native American Intertribal Student Alliance.

Before the change, MEChA members previously hosted unofficial celebrations at the Fountain of Indigenous People’s of the World located in front of the library. They often gathered with large signs in front of the fountain. The members sang and played small drums and flutes while performing native songs. They also talked to students about their goal and the reason why they wished to rename the holiday.

“Are we going to celebrate someone who stumbled upon the Americas and immediately took Taino Native American as slaves to the Spanish Crown?” former Mt. SAC MEChista Fabian Pavon asked. “Or are we going to celebrate the people who have been here for thousands of years, who are responsible for the foundation of our major cities and freeways today?”

In 2016, the Mt. SAC Associated Students voted 16 to 2 and passed a resolution to change Christopher Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. Since the vote, all future student handbooks and student calendars where Columbus Day was once mentioned have since been changed to Indigenous People’s Day.

The change was made possible through the internal activism of three MEChistas, Alejandro Juarez, Fabian Pavon and Johnny Montiel, who were part of the Associated Students at the time. NAISA also served as an external voice in favor of the change during the meetings. Since day one, they worked closely with MEChA in order to ensure the indigenous people were honored on campus.

Mt. SAC renamed the holiday before the city of Los Angeles did. It wasn’t until 2018 that LA celebrated their first Indigenous Day that included all-day celebrations of Native American history and culture. Other states such as New Mexico, Maine and Wisconsin have also voted to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous People’s Day.

Since the change, both MEChA and NAISA celebrate Indigenous People’s Day yearly. The celebrations grow every year, and more student organizations have joined in collaboration.

A ceremony and celebration of Indigenous People’s Day will take place on Monday, Oct. 14 from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on campus at Kerr’s Corner.

“The change is important because it corrects history and shows our values as a society,” Pavon said.