In a number of places, Indigenous Peoples Day has already replaced Columbus Day. But, what is Indigenous Peoples Day anyway?
What Is Indigenous Peoples Day?
Columbus Day is a United States federal holiday that takes place on the second Monday of October each year. The holiday commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World as well as the Italian explorer’s achievements. For some communities, Columbus Day is also a day to celebrate Italian-American heritage.
While Columbus Day remains a federal holiday, several states no longer observe it and have replaced it with Indigenous People’s Day. Others celebrate both Indigenous Peoples Day and Columbus Day. But, why exactly is this?
Despite its status as a national holiday, Columbus Day has a bloody history behind it. Christopher Columbus might have “discovered” the Americas back in 1492, but his arrival brought darkness and turmoil to the natives who were already living there. Columbus was a violent and brutal colonizer. He stole the land of indigenous people as well as tortured and enslaved them.
Columbus introduced many diseases to the New World, including measles and smallpox, which would have lasting effects. The “achievement” for which he was greatly admired for hundreds of years actually resulted in the deaths of countless indigenous people and the loss of their ways of life.
Towards the end of the 20th century, Columbus Day celebrations declined. It is also the least observed federal holiday, with most businesses remaining open despite banks and government services closing down for the day. Today, more than a few states have abandoned Columbus Day in favor of Native American Day or its variations. And this is due in large part to the horrors that Columbus committed.
What Is the Meaning Behind This Holiday?
Indigenous Peoples Day celebrates the achievements of indigenous people and their contributions to the improvement of world issues. It is also a day to raise awareness of and support the rights of indigenous people. The day commemorates Indigenous Peoples Day history and places the spotlight on them instead of Columbus.
Internationally, Indigenous Peoples Day is also celebrated. The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples takes place on August 9 of each year.
Which States Observe the Holiday?
Here is the list of states that celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day:
- Alabama – observes Columbus Day and American Indian Heritage Day on the same day.
- Alaska – celebrates Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day (beginning 2017)
- Hawaii – observes Discoverers’ Day instead of Columbus Day
- Maine – celebrates Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day (beginning 2019)
- Nebraska – observes both Columbus Day and Indigenous People’s Day (beginning 2021)
- New Mexico – celebrates Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day (beginning 2019)
- Oklahoma – observes both Columbus Day and Native American Day (beginning 2019)
- Oregon – celebrates Indigenous People’s Day (beginning 2017) and Columbus Day is not a state holiday
- South Dakota – observes Native American Day instead of Columbus Day and was interestingly the first to do so back in 1990
- Vermont – celebrates Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day (beginning 2019)
- Washington D.C. – observes Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day (beginning 2019)
Other states have also issued proclamations designating a day for Indigenous Peoples Day in certain years. It is also worth noting that many more cities and counties have issued their own proclamations, whether one-time or perpetually, to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day in place of or in addition to Columbus Day.
The move to add Indigenous Peoples Day or have it replace Columbus Day is certainly one that many citizens welcome. There have also been petitions online urging President Joe Biden to officially ditch Columbus Day because of its dark history. These petitions, of course, have been met with both positive and negative reactions. Others don’t understand why there is a need to choose between Indigenous Peoples Day or Columbus Day.
How to Show Support
There are several ways Americans can show their support for the holiday. One way, and perhaps the easiest, is to sign an online petition to designate it as an official federal holiday. You can even take smaller steps and start with your local city or county instead.
Another way to show your support is to donate to charities managed by or dedicated to indigenous people. If you can’t donate money for some reason, you can always donate your time and volunteer. Even just using your platform to spread the word about these charities and the rights of indigenous people can help a lot. Additionally, if your city or state observes the holiday, you can expect some celebrations or events in your local area.
What Is Indigenous People’s Day? Answered!
Columbus Day has long been a federal holiday in the United States. It was President Franklin D. Roosevelt who officially declared it a national holiday back in 1934, though some states were already observing Columbus Day years prior. Because the day is mired with controversies, many believe it is only right to replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day. Though, it remains to be seen whether or not the federal government will actually remove Columbus Day for good and celebrate Native American Day or its variation instead.
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