Columbus Day Or Indigenous Peoples' Day? The Debate Rages On

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Columbus Day celebrates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas (Credit: Dioscoro Puebla / Public domain/Wikipedia.org)

Columbus Day, which is commemorated annually on the second Monday in October, has been a US federal holiday since 1934. However, the celebration, honoring Christopher Columbus's arrival to the Americas, has always been somewhat controversial due to the European settlers' brutal treatment of the Native American people. It has also been argued that the indigenous people had already "discovered" America by the time Columbus landed onto the Bahamian island he named San Salvador on October 12, 1492.

While some states, such as Oregon, Iowa, and Nebraska, never observed the holiday, others began altering their celebration as the years passed. Hawaii renamed the holiday "Discoverers' Day" — in honor of the state’s Polynesian founders — in 1971, while South Dakota changed it to "Native American Day" in 1990. As public awareness increased, numerous schools and universities across the country also stopped marking the event. A 2015 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that Columbus Day was the most inconsistently celebrated US holiday.

Map of the US states (in green) that have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day or Native American Day (Credit: Kaldari / CC0/Wikipedia..org)

Though the shift in sentiment was encouraging, many people were still not happy that Columbus Day remained an official federal holiday. In 1977, a delegation of Native nations, attending the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas, suggested renaming Columbus Day to "Indigenous Peoples’ Day." They believed the change would help honor the victims of American colonization. The resolution passed by an overwhelming majority, but implementing the change was not easy.

In 1992, Berkeley, CA, became the first city to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, with Santa Cruz, CA, following shortly after, in 1994. However, the momentum slowed down again until 2014, when Minneapolis, MN, Grand Rapids, MN, and Seattle, WA, decided to adopt the change. Since then, over 100 cities and states and numerous universities nationwide have switched to the new name.

On March 11, 2020, Colorado passed legislation to replace Columbus Day with Cabrini Day in honor of Frances Xavier Cabrini. The Italian-American Roman Catholic nun is credited with establishing 67 schools, hospitals, and orphanages in the United States and South and Central America throughout her lifetime. On September 4, 2020, Arizona governor Doug Ducey signed a proclamation that recognized Indigenous Peoples' Day on Oct. 12, 2020. However, it does not replace Columbus Day as a federal holiday.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrations in Berkeley, CA on October 13, 2012 (Credit: Quinn Dombrowski/ CC BY-SA-2.0 /Creativecommons.org)

The movement to alter the name has also gained ground in Latin America. Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, and Uruguay have all renamed Columbus Day to “Dia de la Raza,” or “Day of the Race." The holiday celebrates Latin America's mixed indigenous and European heritage and culture. Venezuela and Nicaragua's "Día de la Resistencia Indígena," or "Indigenous Resistance Day," honors the indigenous population's past and ongoing struggles.

However, not everyone believes a name change is necessary. Italian Americans, who have made Columbus Day the centerpiece of Italian Heritage Month — which is celebrated throughout October— argue the holiday honors the history of immigration, not the explorer. Therefore, they believe the name should be retained or changed to something more appropriate, like Italian Heritage Day. What do you think? Be sure to let us know by adding your comments below.

Resources: CNN.com, Wikipedia.org

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233 Comments
  • doggielover23
    doggielover23Wednesday, October 21, 2020 at 12:54 pm
    I think Columbus should have been nicer also
    • myaccgotbanned
      myaccgotbannedWednesday, October 21, 2020 at 11:09 am
      well even tho the natives found it first there is another guy his name is Leif Eriksson he was born 500 years before columbus i think he was a viking and he called it "vinland"
      • christhebeast27
        christhebeast27Wednesday, October 21, 2020 at 9:49 am
        Why did they even create columbus day?
        • namzy
          namzyWednesday, October 21, 2020 at 9:13 am
          I think it should stay as columbus day because that is how people have celebreated it for years.
          • panda1011234567
            panda1011234567Tuesday, October 20, 2020 at 7:36 am
            I think Columbus should have treated the people who truly founded America better.
            • dogofan99
              dogofan99Monday, October 19, 2020 at 10:33 am
              Columbus doesn't deserve a holiday because he was mean
              • wolfy10
                wolfy10Monday, October 19, 2020 at 9:36 am
                and i want dog treats🍽
                • grimauxilitrixx
                  grimauxilitrixxMonday, October 19, 2020 at 7:56 am
                  I believe that Indigenous Peoples' Day should be celebrated instead of Columbus Day. Columbus was a horrible person, he should be ashamed of the things he's done. The Native Americans were here first, he was searching for gold. He also made up the term "Indians" for them.
                  • sassydogegger
                    sassydogeggerMonday, October 19, 2020 at 7:24 am
                    If Columbus was a bad person, why should we celebrate Columbus Day?
                    • joker951
                      joker951Monday, October 19, 2020 at 7:24 am
                      columbus was mean y didn't they change it before?