Following a national trend, the School Board on Tuesday approved a proposal to cease the celebration of Christopher Columbus’ map-expanding voyages of discovery and instead focus on the accomplishments of the original inhabitants of the what Europeans viewed as the New World.
Under the proposal introduced by Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn), the schools will celebrate the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead.
According to the resolution, Columbus’ discovery of the Americas—land previously unknown to Europeans until their search for an alternate trade route to Asia—opened the door to the destruction of the Indigenous peoples’ communities. Indigenous Peoples’ Day will highlight the progress society has accomplished through the contributions of the Indigenous culture. The change would be intended to provide a day for Loudoun as a community to demonstrate it values diversity, equity, inclusion, and history.
“[O]ur students and community deserve a more honest observance on this day, accompanied by teaching that reframes European ‘explorers,’” the resolution states.
During Tuesday’s debate, John Beatty (Catoctin) sought to introduce alternate resolution that highlighted aspects and accomplishments of the native inhabitants, rather than the destruction caused by Columbus’ role in the European reach across the Atlantic. Only Jeff Morse (Dulles) supported that approach.
“If we are going to change something, we need to change it with the truth and not make it look pretty,” Beth Barts (Leesburg) said.
Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge) said Columbus should be remembered for his “blood-thirsty search for gold and riches” and the extinction of a native tribe following his voyages.
The resolution was adopted on an 8-1 vote with Beatty opposed.
As part of the commemoration, the public schools “will actively engage in the collective responsibility to teach and affirm Indigenous Peoples’ culture and community.” The resolution calls on community members, businesses, public and private organizations to also recognize and promote the wellbeing and understanding of the contributions of Indigenous communities.