The Columbus Day celebration forces the National Park Service to deal with two conflicting themes -- joyful celebration of Columbus’ “discovery” of the New World, and somber reflection on the holocaust that ensued for Native Americans. As honored tradition demands, the first theme is handled with pomp and circumstance. The second theme is handled respectfully, but with no fanfare.
If you know anyone who doubts that the National Park Service is deeply involved in the national Columbus Day celebration, have them read this National Park Service press release dated October 5, 2009:
The National Park Service and the National Columbus Celebration Association will co-sponsor the 92nd annual Christopher Columbus ceremony. This ceremony will be held at the Christopher Columbus Statue in Columbus Plaza, opposite Union Station at 11 a.m., Monday, October 11. The United States Marine Band will provide a musical prelude beginning at 10:45 a.m.
The monumental statue was dedicated June 8, 1912; and has been the focal point for yearly celebrations since that time to honor the great navigator and discoverer. The front shaft of the statue, which is crowned with a globe supported by eagles, is a prow of a ship with winged figurehead symbolizing Discovery. Columbus Day was declared a national holiday in 1971.
The annual ceremony is open and free to the public. The ceremony will feature representatives from the Diplomatic Corps of Italy, Spain, The Commonwealth of the Bahamas and the Organization of American States. Ceremonial music provided by the United States Marine Band, "The President's Own" under the direction of Lt Col Michael J. Colburn and Capt Jason K. Fettig, conducting. On June 8 1912, "The President's Own" United States Marine Band participated in the unveiling of the Columbus Memorial Fountain, providing ceremonial music during the official ceremony. Like the monuments the Marine Band has helped dedicate, its continued presence in American life stands as a symbol of the traditions and ideals on which our country was founded.
Dr. David R. Curfman, President of the National Columbus Celebration Association, will serve as master of ceremonies. Mr. Gentry Davis, Deputy Regional Director, National Park Service will give remarks. The United States Armed Forces Honor Guard, Military District of Washington Knights of Columbus Fourth Degree Color Corps, Calvert Province and the Districts of Washington Archdiocese, Maryland and Virginia will make the Presentation of Colors. Reverend Daniel P. Coughlin, Chaplain; United States House of Representatives, will deliver the invocation.
Miss Monika Grzesik, resident of Macomb Township, Michigan, the national winner of the eighth annual youth essay contest, will deliver her essay entitled "A Day in the Life of Christopher Columbus the Explorer." Since 1996 this nation-wide contest is co-sponsored by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution and The National Italian American Foundation. The prize for the national winner is a cash prize of $1,200 along with travel expenses and hotel accommodations for the student and one parent/guardian to Washington, D.C. for the holiday weekend.
The ceremony will conclude with the laying of wreaths at the statue by many national and local fraternal, civic, patriotic and cultural societies.
Meanwhile, this announcement in the Rapid City Journal heralded the events of the past weekend over at South Dakota’s Badlands National Park:
Interpretive presentations on bison and beadwork and moccasin-making demonstrations will be presented at Badlands National Park from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 10 and 11 to commemorate Native American Day.
In case of inclement weather, programs will be conducted inside at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center classroom.
For more information, contact the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, Badlands National Park at 605-433-5241 or e-mail [email protected].
This is in a state whose legislature officially replaced Columbus Day with Native American Day two decades ago. This is in a national park whose visitor center is named after the first Native American park ranger, whose superintendent is a Native American, and whose entire South Unit – about half of the park’s total area -- consists of Pine River Reservation land belonging to the Oglala Sioux tribe.
Postscript: In some quarters, liberals are being accused of taking Native American issues too seriously, as by considering the annual Native American Day celebration worthy of public respect. Hearing this claim, Native Americans are quick to point out that it was Ronald Reagan himself who, while governor of California, in 1968, signed a resolution calling for a holiday called American Indian Day. In 1998 the California state legislature established Native American Day as an official state holiday.