Increasing numbers of states, cities, and universities are celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 12, which celebrates Native American history and stories as an alternative to Columbus Day.
According to the History Channel, “Columbus Day is a U.S. holiday that commemorates the landing of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492” (history.com). According to The New York Times, Columbus Day has been a federal holiday since 1934, and 130 cities and towns have renamed the holiday (nytimes.com).
Indigenous Peoples’ Day is observed by the states of Minnesota, Alaska, Maine, Louisiana, Oregon, New Mexico, Nevada and Vermont as of 2020. Additionally, South Dakota celebrates Native Americans’ day, and Hawaii celebrates Discoverer’s Day (history.com).
Opponents of Columbus Day point out that Columbus never set foot on the continental United States. Additionally, they stress that there were millions of people living in North America during 1492, and Columbus’ journey encouraged centuries of exploitation of Native Americans (nytimes.com).
Legal Director Courtney Bowie, of the American Civil Liberties Union, said, “In honoring the history and culture of Native Americans today and every day, we work to recognize the dishonor in our past and help to remedy the discrimination against Native Americans today” (aclu.org).
In an interview with NPR, Dr. Joseph Sciorra of the Italian American Institute at Queens College in New York said, “Italian immigrants who come between 1880s and 1924, they encounter America that is xenophobic, that is engaging in acts of violence against immigrants. One has to remember the lynching in New Orleans of 11 Italian Americans in 1891 so that Columbus becomes this figure that Italians latch on to as a way to get a foothold in this incredibly hostile environment that they find themselves in” (npr.org).
The first Columbus Day celebration took place in 1792, when New York’s Columbian Order held an event to commemorate the historic landing’s three-hundredth anniversary. “Taking pride in Columbus’ birthplace and faith, Italian and Catholic communities in various parts of the country began organizing annual religious ceremonies and parades in his honor,” according to the History Channel (history.com).
The UC High ASB Instagram page recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day in a post on October 12. The caption said, “In honoring the history and culture of Native Americans today and every day, we work to recognize the dishonor in our past and help to remedy the discrimination against Native Americans today” (instagram.com).
Senior Omar Vazquez Aparicio said, “I like the idea of celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day as an alternative. It acknowledges the history in a respectful way, and it makes more sense for today.”