Posted by: delphine criscenzo | October 7, 2012

Abolish Columbus Day! Celebrate Native People’s Day!

“Historians and archaeologists will one day discover that the ads of our time are the richest and most faithful reflections that any society ever made of its entire range of activities.” Marshall McLuhan

So it is 300 years in the future and I am a Historian who comes upon this ad and I ponder… “When is Columbus Day?” Because I live in a decolonized society, the idea of celebrating a thief, murdered, racist, rapist who initiated the genocide of Native people and the destruction of their culture, disturbs me! So as a good historian I do some research and find out that what we (people 300 years in the future) celebrate as Native People’s Day, in fact used to be “Columbus Day.” As I take a closer look at the ad, I realize it is advertizing for a special 4-day-sale at Toys “R” Us, a toys store.

As a historian, I am trained to conduct a semiotic analysis of advertisements from the past in order to “decode [their] meaning… and denaturalise [their] ideological messages.” (O’Shaughnessy & Stadler, 2012: 163)

What I think about first is the fact that a “holiday” is used to incite people to consume. Second, I realize that this ad is for a toys store and therefore aims at convincing children and parents to visit their store for discounted prices. In the mind of these children and adults, the name of a murderer, thief, rapist, colonizer is now associated with the fun of getting discounted prices on toys. I am saddened, but then start investigating the process that turned “Columbus Day” into Native People’s Day. I come upon a post on a blog entitled Strategically Communicating. It said:

TOMORROW, OCTOBER 8th 2012, ABOLISH COLUMBUS DAY. INSTEAD CELEBRATE NATIVE PEOPLE’S DAY!

Can semiotic analysis be used to critically think about our ideologies?

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