Taking Columbus out of Columbus Day?

Christopher Columbus, Native American Day, Columbus Day, history
Christopher Columbus: explorer or exploiter?

The second Monday in October is Columbus Day in the U.S., except in South Dakota, where it is officially Native American Day.

The choice of what to call this day is interesting. Is it about Columbus, the guy who sailed the ocean blue, or the Native Americans (and the Tainos, to be specific), who had discovered this land long before Columbus was tall enough to hoist a sail.

In their book, Rethinking Columbus, Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson encourage us to revisit our assumptions about history. They are on a mission to write “a true people’s history”. Both the characters in the history and the ones telling the history matter. The tales they tell and the words they use to tell those tales will differ. At times drastically.

Columbus Day. Native American Day. Explorations Day. All refer to the same day. Each offers a different version of history.

Which version of history do your words tell? (Hint: This matters to organizational and personal histories, not just history as it relates to the second Monday in October.)

Canada, the US, Independence Days & Brand

4th of July, Canada Day, United States, brandI’m Camerican–born in Canada to American parents. Comparing and contrasting the two countries is inevitable.

Take, for instance, how we celebrate our respective Independence days.

Tomorrow, Americans will celebrate the 4th of July–a day of fun, festivities and fireworks. It’s a big deal.

Meanwhile, Canadians celebrated their Independence day on July 1–lovingly referred to as Canada Day or Canada’s birthday. It’s kind of a big deal. But it doesn’t hold a Roman candle to the hooplah that goes on in the U.S.

If both holidays are about the exact same thing–independence from Great Britain–why are they so different?┬áBrand and history.

An exceptionally brief history lesson: Whereas the United States fought for its independence, Canada came into being because Great Britain decided to create a new country out of three existing colonies. <end history lesson>

Just like organizations, many elements inform a country’s brand. History is one of them.

Canada’s brand is understated. It is the mosaic to the American melting pot. Courtesy is currency.

Rabble-rousing and a serious independent streak are what got the United States its independence, so it’s no surprise its brand is more boisterous and extroverted.

Had the United States and Canada been formed in the same way, they might be more similar in terms of their brand. But, contrary to popular opinion, they’re really very different. (If you’d like a more exhaustive list of how they differ, email me and I’d be happy to enumerate.)

History matters. Why and how your organization came into existence matters. It’s where the story of your organization begins.

If you were going to have an independence day for your organization, when would it be? What makes that date significant?

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?