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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232 Comments
  • angrypomeranian
    angrypomeranianThursday, October 15, 2020 at 10:21 am
    Why should we celebrate someone who was very mean to other people? I mean he was a bad person for the things he did.
    • mcor
      mcorMonday, October 19, 2020 at 7:23 am
      I know why should we oh because he was the first 1 in the islands close to where hamilton was born
      • cinnamon147bun
        cinnamon147bunSunday, October 18, 2020 at 9:37 am
        I agree
      • dangerkitty
        dangerkittyThursday, October 15, 2020 at 9:50 am
        I think we should celebrate Indigneous Peoples' Day because Columbus did not discover America, he only came there to get a whole bunch of gold... Sorry if I accidentally offend any of you, I am stating my opinion here... :T
        • bostonterierblu
          bostonterierbluThursday, October 15, 2020 at 8:41 am
          we deserve the right to choose what we do
          • alexandramo3
            alexandramo3Thursday, October 15, 2020 at 8:23 am
            Christopher Columbus doesn't deserve a holiday for his evilness.
            • bostonterierblu
              bostonterierbluThursday, October 15, 2020 at 8:10 am
              yes we should celebrate whatever we want
              • indiaashayy
                indiaashayyWednesday, October 14, 2020 at 3:11 pm
                It should be indigneous people's day as being mixed with native american it is an insult for it to be called colombus day when the natives first discoverd america also how can you be the first to discover something that has already been discovered?
                • dangerkitty
                  dangerkittyThursday, October 15, 2020 at 9:51 am
                  Good point
                • bostonterierblu
                  bostonterierbluWednesday, October 14, 2020 at 11:52 am
                  i mean im pretty sure native americans discovered it first
                  • bostonterierblu
                    bostonterierbluWednesday, October 14, 2020 at 11:47 am
                    i think we should all decide for ourselves and we all have rights to do whatever! who agrees
                    • manylovesdogs28
                      manylovesdogs28Wednesday, October 14, 2020 at 11:13 am
                      I think we should celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day because actually Amerigo Vespucci discovered America !!!
                      • shmitler
                        shmitlerThursday, October 15, 2020 at 8:21 am
                        well the America's were named after him but Columbus was the one to go and find the America's.
                      • orca117
                        orca117Wednesday, October 14, 2020 at 8:47 am
                        Columbus doesn't deserve a holiday