Columbus Day is celebrated each year on the second Monday in October. It is in honor of Christopher Columbus, the explorer who brought Europeans to the Americas. It is also a celebration of the growth of our nation since the Pilgrims first arrived and began eking out a life in the new land.
In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, after a lot of pressure from the Catholic organization the Knights of Columbus, proclaimed the first official day to honor Columbus. But it was President Richard Nixon who made it official by designating the second Monday in October as officially Christopher Columbus Day in 1972.
Columbus vs. Indigenous Day
Not everyone was happy to have a day honoring the explorer, especially Native Americans. To the indigenous peoples, that day marks a dark time in history because it was the beginning of the end of their way of life. As Europeans came in and started settling, land was being taken, and the indigenous peoples saw their homes and lands disappear as the newcomers grew in numbers.
For decades, Native Americans have fought to remove Columbus Day. Recently that movement has grown so that several states and cities have cast out the foreign explorer and replaced him with Indigenous Peoples Day.
The idea behind Indigenous Peoples Day is to get Americans to rethink history. It’s not just about the discovery of new lands, but also new cultures. Before Columbus came across the sea, Europeans had not had many encounters with the inhabitants of this continent. This day is meant to remind people that there was another way of life before the colonials conquered the land.
South Dakota was the first state to rename Columbus Day in 1990. Berkeley, California, was the first city to do the same. Hawaii changed the day’s name and focus as well; they call it Discoverers’ Day in honor of the Polynesian navigators who settled the island.