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Columbus Day Indigenous People: Counter-celebration renames Columbus Day

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Columbus Day is now “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” depending on where you are from. This October, if you plan on celebrating Columbus Day, be sure to not take the uncouth step and call it by the explorer’s name. If you are from Minneapolis or other localities, you now “counter-celebrate” Columbus Day as the renamed holiday.

With the new name, Indigenous Peoples’ Day is designed to promote Native American culture and commemorate the history of the Native American peoples. According to NPR News on Sunday, the city of Minneapolis adopted the new name after considering the viewpoint that hailing Columbus as the discoverer of America is “inaccurate and ignores the history of indigenous people.”

Lakota activist Bill Means, a vocal supporter of the Indigenous Peoples Day initiative, said the story that Christopher Columbus discovered America is “one of the first lies we're told in public education.” Speaking on behalf of his Native American heritage, Means said: “We discovered Columbus, lost on our shores, sick, destitute and wrapped in rags. We nourished him to health, and the rest is history. He represents the mascot of American colonialism in the western hemisphere. And so it is time that we change a myth of history.”

The idea of refocusing the Columbus Day holiday initially gained traction in Berkeley, California, as well as in Denver, Colorado. The alternative to Columbus Day is designated to be on the second Monday in October, and coincides with the Columbus Day holiday. Columbus Day is listed as a federal holiday in the United States but is not observed at the state level in all states. Alaska, Hawaii and Oregon do not observe Columbus Day, under any name.

The text of the resolution passed in Minneapolis reads, in part:

The City of Minneapolis recognizes the annexation of Dakota homelands for the building of our city, and knows Indigenous nations have lived upon this land since time immemorial and values the progress our society has accomplished through American Indian technology, thought, and culture…

The City of Minneapolis understands that in order to help close the equity gap, government entities, organizations and other public institutions should change their policies and practices to better reflect the experiences of American Indian people and uplift our country’s Indigenous roots, history, and contributions…

The Italian explorer Christopher Columbus is often solely credited with discovering America. Columbus completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to a “general European awareness of the American continents,” says his Wiki page. However, Columbus never landed on what is now the continental United States. He arrived to Haiti and the Dominican Republic (Hispaniola) in 1492.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges says the plan to junk Columbus day puts a new face on an old holiday, and places the emphasis where it should be – on Native American tradition and legacy. “This act recognizes and celebrates the native people who still live on this land and will foster stronger relationships moving forward,” Hodges said. “I am grateful to the community for organizing to make this a reality and am honored to sign this resolution, something I promised last summer I would.”

Plans for a holiday dedicated to celebrating indigenous people began in 1977, when a delegation proposed the idea to the United Nations. Time magazine said Columbus’s “discovery” is what “led to the enslavement and extermination of millions of native Taino people.” Civil rights activist Clyde Bellecourt called the explorer a "pirate," stating: “For me, it’s been almost 50 years that we’ve been talking about this pirate,” Bellecourt said.

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