Cities Journal
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Columbus Day Or Indigenous Day?

Columbus Day brings to mind the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. This Monday, however, some cities and states would rather you think of the Sioux, the Suquamish and the Chippewa. Why is that?

For the first time, Seattle and Minneapolis will recognize the second Monday in October as “Indigenous People’s Day.” The cities join a growing list of jurisdictions choosing to shift the holiday’s point from Christopher Columbus to the people he encountered in the New World and their descendants.

The Seattle City Council voted to reinvent the holiday to celebrate “the thriving cultures and values of Indigenous Peoples in our region.”

The Minneapolis City Council approved a similar measure in April.

… “To reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous people on this land, and to celebrate the thriving culture and value that Dakota, Ojibwa and other indigenous nations add to our city.”

The Seattle School Board followed, along with Portland Public Schools, where officials say Indigenous People’s Day will not replace Columbus Day but add to it. Portland School Board member Greg Belisle, according to the Oregonian, said it’s an important step towards understanding history.

“It’s not about one or the other, it’s about how do we get a complete picture to understand where we’re at in history, and how we got there?”

In many cities, Columbus Day is a celebration of Italian-American heritage, leading to opposition to the recasting of Columbus Day. Lisa Marchese, a lawyer affiliated with the Order Sons of Italy in America, told The Seattle Times that Italian-Americans are insulted by this.

“Italian-Americans are deeply offended By this resolution, you say to all Italian-Americans that the city of Seattle no longer deems your heritage or your community worthy of recognition.”

President Benjamin Harrison established a celebration of Columbus Day in 1892, the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in the Bahamas in 1492. The holiday was celebrated on the second Monday in October in 1971. Today, 16 states, including Alaska, Hawaii and Oregon, don’t recognize Columbus Day as a public holiday. South Dakota has celebrated Native American Day since 1990.

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