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Columbus Day: The History and the Conflict

Columbus Day celebrates an Italian explorer – but some think it should recognize the people who were here first.

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Columbus Day is celebrated each year on the second Monday in October. It is in honor of Christopher Columbus, who sailed from Europe to America in 1972. After him came many Europeans, who settled on the land. The cultures of North and much of South America wouldn’t exist as they are today without that influence. There were events to celebrate Columbus over the years, but in 1972, President Richard Nixon made the second Monday in October officially Columbus Day.

Columbus vs. Indigenous Day

Not everyone was happy to have a day honoring the explorer, especially Native Americans. To the indigenous peoples, who were here when Columbus arrived, that day marks a dark time in history. As Europeans came they took land to live on, and the indigenous peoples saw their homes disappear as the newcomers grew in numbers.

For many years, Native Americans have fought to remove Columbus Day. They believe that instead, the day should recognize the indigenous people who were here first. Some states and cities have officially replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The idea behind Indigenous Peoples Day is to get Americans to rethink history. This day is meant to remind people that there was another way of life before the settlers came from across the ocean and 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.

Kelli Ballard

National Correspondent at and Kelli Ballard is an author, editor, and publisher. Her writing interests span many genres including a former crime/government reporter, fiction novelist, and playwright. Originally a Central California girl, Kelli now resides in the Seattle area.

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