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


Word Count

518 words

Reading Level

Listen to Article

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

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 on 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/

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 /

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.



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
Learn Keywords in this Article
  • gold3nglare
    gold3nglareover 2 years
    Here's a Thanksgiving Joke: Q: Who is never hungry on Thanksgiving? A: The turkey because he’s already stuffed!
    • gold3nglare
      gold3nglareover 2 years
      I know it's not Thanksgiving yet, but I have dressed up like a Native american!
      • fosterkeefe
        fosterkeefeover 2 years
        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?!
        • patricianfosure
          patricianfosureover 2 years
          Columbus day
          • gold3nglare
            gold3nglareover 2 years
            i disagree with you.
            • ponyprincess
              ponyprincessabout 2 years
              Me too. It should be indigenous people's day because what did Columbus do? He killed almost an entire population that's what.
              • sokeefe_forever
                sokeefe_foreverabout 2 years
                Not the whole population, though he did take slaves also, which I don't agree with, but what I think is people should be able to celebrate what they want. I mean, you can't really just remove an entire Holliday from the calendars because that would be confusing, but the simple way to resolve would be to mark it down as "Columbus Day, or Indigenous Peoples Day" or "Indigenous Peoples day (Columbus Day)" or vice versa.
                • zaks
                  zaksabout 2 years
                  He did kill some of them but not that many.
            • cchcyx463
              cchcyx463over 2 years
              Columbus Day is my pick
              • rokahanu-160270610713
                I wish Columbus new about the sickness that they carried so all of those Native Americans did not die
              • doggielover23
                doggielover23over 2 years
                I think Columbus should have been nicer also
              • christhebeast27
                christhebeast27over 2 years
                Why did they even create columbus day?
                • liz_legend_13
                  liz_legend_13about 1 year
                  It was supposed the be about Italian-American heritage with Columbus as a symbol, but turned into calling Columbus a hero. First, he never stepped foot on American soil. Second, he was never American. So why have this holiday? I don't know.
                • namzy
                  namzyover 2 years
                  I think it should stay as columbus day because that is how people have celebreated it for years.
                • panda1011234567
                  panda1011234567over 2 years
                  I think Columbus should have treated the people who truly founded America better.