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

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

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/Wikipedia..org)

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 /Creativecommons.org)

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.

Resources: CNN.com, Wikipedia.org

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246 Comments
  • unipug2
    unipug210 months
    The man...he...was not kind to the natives. I believe that whatever we choose is okay.
    • talltower
      talltowerover 1 year
      But if we call it Columbus Day, then we can remember how he opened up a door into the Americas for other people. Yes, he wasn't kind to the natives, but it was the 1400's!
      • liz_legend_13
        liz_legend_1311 months
        Even though it was the 1400's, that behavior shouldn't be acceptable. Plus, he didn't just lead to the death of Natives, but also Whites. I understand the whole idea of "Why change it? It's just more work." I understand being sick of protests. But if we want those to end, maybe we should consider what they're saying. Also, Columbus Day was orginally to celebrate Italian-American heritage but quickly became more about glorifying someone who didn't remotely deserve it. Why have an American holiday for someone who didn't set foot on American soil instead of a holiday to respect those who are still fighting to keep their land today? I will not try to change your mind, but please take these things into consideration, and take care!
        • talltower
          talltowerover 1 year
          Sorry, I didn't mean to be unkind. But I'm sick of protests and 'change this' 'reform that'.
      • unipug2
        unipug2over 1 year
        The Native Americans were here first, not Columbus. How selfish, u could say. Not fair. It should be indigenous people day.
        • snakeandshepard
          snakeandshepardover 1 year
          Look, we can meet in the middle, should columbus day continue; we should have the option to get well ANYTHING that represents the natives, and vice versa
          • taigaaisaka
            taigaaisakaalmost 2 years
            i think it should be indigenous peoples days
            • snowthaproduc7
              snowthaproduc7almost 2 years
              I believe strongly that it should be indigenous people day.
              • patricianfosure
                patricianfosurealmost 2 years
                I say Columbus day because of his travel to America it made the old World more interested in the new world which helped to make America
              • otay
                otayalmost 2 years
                i think Columbus day i like it better honestly
                • orca117
                  orca117almost 2 years
                  we need to change the name in my opinion it should be indigenous peoples day
                  • gold3nglare
                    gold3nglarealmost 2 years
                    Here's a Thanksgiving Joke: Q: Who is never hungry on Thanksgiving? A: The turkey because he’s already stuffed!