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Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day?

Some people say we should recognize the indigenous people – not the Europeans who displaced them.

By:  |  October 9, 2023  |    565 Words

Columbus Day Parade October 13, 2003 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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 also celebrates the growth of our nation since the first European settlers arrived and began eking out a life in the new land.

In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, after a lot of pressure from a Catholic organization called the Knights of Columbus, proclaimed an official day to honor Columbus every year. But it was President Richard Nixon in 1971 who set the date of the second Monday in October.

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples’ Day

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Indigenous Peoples Day rally in Boston on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Not everyone is happy to have a day honoring the explorer. The main group that protests the holiday is Native Americans. To the indigenous peoples, the celebration 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 his day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

The idea behind Indigenous Peoples’ Day is to get Americans to rethink history. Before Columbus came across the sea, Europeans had not had many encounters with the inhabitants of this continent. The idea of changing the holiday is meant to remind people that there was another way of life before the colonists 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. Now, over 100 cities across the nation have ditched Columbus Day. 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.

In 2021, President Joe Biden became the first president to issue a proclamation recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Italian Heritage Day?

Christopher Columbus is thought to be from Italy, even though his exploration mission was supported by the Spanish throne. Because of his background, the celebration to honor Columbus has been championed by Italians and Roman Catholics.

Even though honoring Columbus is not as popular as it once was, the day still holds a lot of pride for Americans of Italian background. Some have suggested there are better ways to celebrate Italian traditions – such as creating an Italian Heritage Day.

Others disagree, saying Columbus deserves to be honored. For example, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said that “Christopher Columbus displayed courage, determination, and perseverance when he sailed the ocean blue more than 500 years ago.” He proclaimed that the explorer “exemplified courage, risk-taking, and heroism in the face of enormous odds; as a visionary who saw the possibilities of exploration beyond Europe; and as a founding father who laid the foundation for what would one day become the United States of America.”

Today, some groups want to continue celebrating one of the first Europeans to discover America, while others disagree. Do you think the holiday’s name should change or stay the same?

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