Sanitizing history: National identification, negative stereotypes, and support for eliminating Columbus Day and adopting Indigenous Peoples Day.

Arianne E. Eason*, Terrence Pope, Kendra M. Becenti, Stephanie A. Fryberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives: Despite the fact that Christopher Columbus did not discover America and was arguably one of the most brutal colonizers in recorded history, the United States continues to celebrate a holiday in his honor. A growing movement by Native American activists and allies aims to adopt Indigenous Peoples Day in lieu of Columbus Day to shed light on historical inaccuracies, acknowledge the legacy of colonialism, and celebrate Indigenous Peoples. Research suggests that national narratives, such as those undergirding Columbus Day, build on negative stereotypes about minoritized groups to help bolster national identities. We examined whether national identification and negative stereotyping of Native Americans shapes support for each holiday. Method: We conducted 2 large-scale national studies (Study 1: college students, N = 4,625; Study 2: adults, N = 2,805). Results: Across both samples, people who endorsed the continued celebration of Columbus Day and people who were least supportive of adopting Indigenous Peoples Day were those high in national identification. In contrast, people who endorsed eliminating Columbus Day and people who supported adopting Indigenous Peoples Day were relatively low in national identification who also believed that negative stereotypes about Native Americans were highly unacceptable (Studies 1 and 2) and/or inaccurate (Study 2). Conclusions: The results suggest that garnering support for eliminating Columbus Day and adopting Indigenous Peoples Day requires interrogating the roots of national identification and rejecting negative stereotypes about Native Americans. Implications for why people continue to hold onto national narratives that reify the continued subordination of minority groups are discussed. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved) Public Significance Statement: Christopher Columbus did not discover America and was one of the most brutal colonizers in recorded history. Nonetheless, in the United States, a holiday in Columbus’ honor is celebrated in lieu of Indigenous Peoples Day, which aims to acknowledge the legacy of colonialism and to celebrate contemporary Indigenous people. The results of two large studies suggest that garnering support for the elimination of Columbus Day and the adoption of Indigenous Peoples Day requires interrogating the roots of national identification and rejecting negative stereotypes about Native Americans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalCultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology
Volume27
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Columbus Day
  • Indigenous Peoples Day
  • historical omission
  • national identification
  • stereotyping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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