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Letter: Why mix Columbus Day?

To the Editor:

As the old saying goes, there are always two sides to every story. So we should always be wary of one-sided stories.

Columbus Day is a day of remembering not Christopher Columbus — he is just a symbol — but of the birth of a whole new vision of what a nation can be. The roots of this vision are European, especially British, but the vision itself has inspired peoples around the globe as North America has developed into a pair of nations, the U.S. and Canada, which are admirable, strong, and essentially just.

It is also a day for remembering what we too often forget, that the reality of the European takeover of America included a very great deal of injustice. Native Americans paid a very dear price for the European success and their civilizations were almost completely destroyed.

It is a good thing to live in a town called Red Wing, honoring a local chief who was in fact quite hospitable to the Europeans. Every time we name our town or our famous shoe company or our pottery, we are honoring the chief. Now, with a day named in his honor, we have a natural opportunity both to celebrate Native Americans and their cultures.

What makes no sense to me is supplanting one side of the story with another. We need Columbus Day to remember our beginnings as a people and we need Chief Red Wing Day to remember that the Europeans came to a people who already had a good and long set of traditions which are worth recapturing to whatever degree is possible.

If we have to choose between the two days, we will be choosing just one side of the story. And that is always a distortion of history. Can we not move beyond such false choices?

Michael Hayes

Red Wing