Northern Wyoming News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Karla Pomeroy
Editor 

The News Editorial: Do you know why you had Monday off?

 

October 17, 2019



Monday was a federal holiday where the U.S. Postal Service was shut down, banks were closed and government, local, state and federal offices were closed.

What holiday you ask, for the many like us here at the Northern Wyoming News who were working? It was Columbus Day.

According to the 2019 Presidential Proclamation for Columbus Day, “On October 12, 1492, after a perilous, two-month journey across the treacherous Atlantic Ocean, Christopher Columbus and his crew aboard the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria landed in what is today The Bahamas. This watershed voyage ushered in the Age of Exploration, changing the course of history and setting the foundation for development of our Nation. Today, we commemorate this great explorer, whose courage, skill, and drive for discovery are at the core of the American spirit.”

The proclamation also states that “In commemoration of Christopher Columbus’s historic voyage, the Congress, by joint resolution of April 30, 1934, and modified in 1968 (36 U.S.C. 107), as amended, has requested the President proclaim the second Monday of October of each year as ‘Columbus Day.’”

In recent years there has been a movement to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

According to an Associated Press article by Russell Contreras, “Around 10 states observe some version of Indigenous Peoples Day, along with more than 100 U.S. cities. Washington, D.C., is celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day this year under a temporary measure.

“Native American advocates for years have pressed states to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day over concerns that Columbus helped launch centuries of genocide against indigenous populations in the Americas.”

My father, despite having the day off as a BLM employee, never understood why it was a federal holiday.

There are several federal holidays I don’t understand except that it gives federal employees a break. Columbus Day is one of them. I get that his journey encouraged others, but why do we need to commemorate that with a holiday.

I can understand American Indians wanting a day, especially as they were the original citizens of America.

I don’t understand Labor Day.

And I disagree with those who wish 9/11 or Patriot Day would become a national holiday. Why you wonder? Because I think sometimes when we make it a holiday it becomes more about the day off and we forget what we are actually trying to commemorate.

According to the Library of Congress, “The 400th anniversary of the event inspired the first official Columbus Day holiday in the United States. President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation in 1892, ‘recommending to the people the observance in all their localities of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America…’ and describing Columbus as “the pioneer of progress and enlightenment.’”

How many of you actually thought about that, thought about the discovery of America on Monday.

We talked about the holiday here at the office but not about what it actually signified.

I wonder how many people knew why they had Sept. 2 off last month ... for Labor Day.

According to History.org, “In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living.

“In the wake of this massive unrest and in an attempt to repair ties with American workers, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories. On June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed it into law.”

So the two most recent federal holidays have their roots in the late 19th century, maybe it is time to look at our federal holidays and determine which are relevant in this the 21st century, which ones need to stay, which ones do not and do we need any others?

 
 

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