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

By

CCSS NCSS-1 NCSS-9 518 Words 4-Minute Listen
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

Get the Workbook for this article!

Workbook contains: Article, Reading Comprehension, Critical Thinking Questions, Vocabulary in Context (+ answers), Multiple Choice Quiz (+ answers), Parts of Speech Quiz (+ answers), Vocabulary Game (+ answers)
Cite Article
238 Comments
  • unipug2
    unipug2Saturday, February 6, 2021 at 1:37 pm
    The Native Americans were here first, not Columbus. How selfish, u could say. Not fair. It should be indigenous people day.
    • snakeandshepard
      snakeandshepardThursday, January 28, 2021 at 6:29 am
      Look, we can meet in the middle, should columbus day continue; we should have the option to get well ANYTHING that represents the natives, and vice versa
      • taigaaisaka
        taigaaisakaTuesday, December 1, 2020 at 4:05 pm
        i think it should be indigenous peoples days
        • snowthaproduc7
          snowthaproduc7Tuesday, November 24, 2020 at 7:31 am
          I believe strongly that it should be indigenous people day.
          • patricianfosure
            patricianfosureThursday, November 5, 2020 at 10:25 am
            I say Columbus day because of his travel to America it made the old World more interested in the new world which helped to make America
            • elephantlover25
              elephantlover25Friday, March 12, 2021 at 5:49 am
              It was actually the native Americans
            • otay
              otayWednesday, November 4, 2020 at 9:09 am
              i think Columbus day i like it better honestly
              • orca117
                orca117Wednesday, November 4, 2020 at 7:43 am
                we need to change the name in my opinion it should be indigenous peoples day
                • gold3nglare
                  gold3nglareMonday, November 2, 2020 at 7:16 am
                  Here's a Thanksgiving Joke: Q: Who is never hungry on Thanksgiving? A: The turkey because he’s already stuffed!
                  • gold3nglare
                    gold3nglareMonday, November 2, 2020 at 7:11 am
                    I know it's not Thanksgiving yet, but I have dressed up like a Native american!
                    • kotlcfitzphie13
                      kotlcfitzphie13Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 6:19 pm
                      Columbus shouldn't have been to the people who helped him! He is overrated. I read that Columbus made all the people who helped him settle into their land his slaves! What did they do to deserve it?!