Today is Columbus Day in the United States with many Americans enjoying the day off. In certain parts of the country, Columbus Day weekend is known as "fall foliage weekend" where reams of visitors to New York state or New England become "leaf peepers" admiring the fall colors. But, the name of the holiday itself is currently undergoing a major re-brand, according to an article today in Fox News.
Late last week, Vermont Gov. Peter Schumlin signed an executive proclamation marking the second Monday of October as Indigenous People’s Day. According to the proclamation, the day is to recognize that the state “was founded and is built upon lands first inhabited by the Indigenous Peoples of this region.”
A growing number of communities are now joining Vermont in rebranding the traditional Columbus Day holiday in favor of Indigenous People’s Day, which, supporters say, is meant to promote an accurate telling of the United States’ history and commemorate the resilience of its original inhabitants against European settlers.
Phoenix and Denver join at least 26 other cities across the country that will celebrate Native Americans on Monday, while federal and state governments observe Columbus Day.
“It is important to acknowledge the original people of this land, and that is something that Columbus Day has completely contradicted,” Laura Medina, an Arizona State University student and activist, told the City Council on Monday, according to the Arizona Republic.
Also this week, the City Council in Denver, which observed Indigenous People’s Day last year under a temporary proclamation, made the holiday permanent after a unanimous vote Monday, according to Fox News affiliate KDVR.
The idea of celebrating Indigenous People’s Day was first proposed nearly 40 years ago, when a delegation of Native nations to a UN conference in Geneva passed a resolution. Thirteen years later, in 1990, the First Continental Conference on 500 Years of Indian Resistance in Ecuador passed a resolution changing Columbus Day into a celebration of Native Americans.
Berkeley, California and South Dakota became the first city and state, respectively, to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day in the 1990s.
Cities including Seattle, Minneapolis, Spokane, Boulder, Albuquerque, Portland, (Oregon), St. Paul (Minnesota) and Olympia (Washington) did so over the next several years following calls from activists to honor indigenous communities and their history instead of Christopher Columbus.
But one big city bucked the trend. Cincinnati's city council last Wednesday voted against a proclamation that would have recognized Indigenous Peoples' Day, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. One lawmaker who voted against it told the newspaper he simply didn't know enough about it.
Columbus Day traditionally recognizes Christopher Columbus's 1492 arrival in the Americas.
While most federal workers get the day off, only about half of states recognize Columbus Day as a paid holiday for public workers, a 2015 Pew Research Center study found.