WASHINGTON — For many Americans, Columbus Day is meant to commemorate the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1492. 

The first of these celebrations occurred in 1792, 300 years after Columbus’ first arrival in the region. By its 400th anniversary, Columbus, hailed as a pioneer for ‘progress and enlightenment, was given an official holiday in 1892 by former U.S. President Benjamin Harrison. 

However, in 2021, U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. rebranded the holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This change was meant to tribute to the culture and history of the people who resided here before Columbus’ arrival.

This change has notably begged the question of what was amiss with the initial name and reason for the holiday. 

Simply put, Columbus’ actions towards the natives who predated his presence here are viewed as controversial. 

While he was celebrated as a ‘discoverer’, Native Americans understand him as a colonizer who forcefully took their land and allowed mass death and eradication of Indigenous culture. 

By Frédéric Lix (1830-1897) – Dictionnaire populaire illustré d’histoire, de géographie, de biographie, de technologie, de mythologie, d’antiquités, des beaux-arts et de littérature, rédigé et édité par Edmond Alonnier & Joseph Décembre, Paris : Imprimerie parisienne, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=121252514

To understand the drastic and painful effects of Columbus’ actions in the United States, a United Nations report estimates that the 15th century or “pre-Columbus” population of North America was approximately 10 to 12 million and by the 1890s, it was diminished to around 300,000.

As such, having a federal holiday to commemorate these actions added insult to injury for many native communities still in the country.

Considering the numerous generations of Native Americans who have protested against the holiday, the switch has been seen as long overdue by their communities. 

Therefore, by removing the holiday’s association with Columbus through name and rebranding its reason for celebration, Indigenous Peoples’ Day provides an opportunity to see the event it marks through the eyes of Indigenous people. 

Instead of downplaying the actions of European settlers, the newly named holiday offers the ability to reconcile friction between the opposing perspectives of the events that transpired in 1492 and onwards.

Before Biden formally recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2021, early movements toward the change had transpired as early as the 1970s. While the name change can’t reverse what happened to native communities, it can go a long way in preserving a fundamental culture that has been harmed throughout American history.

Today, the following states in America do not celebrate Columbus Day: 

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • ​Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

In 2022, the Maryland General Assembly introduced a bill to rename the state holiday Indigenous Peoples’ Day. That bill never made it out of committee.

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  1. Actually, the holiday was created by President Harrison after 11 Italian Americans were lynched in the south by the KKK. Prove me wrong.

    1. Maybe we should keep the holiday in honor of Italian Americans and make it more palatable by changing it to Amerigo Vespucci Day… you know, the continent’s namesake, who actually sailed for Italy and not Spain, and who didn’t commit the atrocities Columbus is now infamous for.

  2. Moot point. Columbus never set foot on the North American Continent, nor sailed past it, nor discovered it.

  3. I applaud this change and am thankful that we’re finally recognizing what Christopher Columbus’ landing on our shores did to the indians who had lived in our country long before he arrived.
    All my life I’ve felt terrible about how these people were treated my our government and am glad we’re finally going to recognize them as they should have been all along. Maybe, at some point, their lives will be made easier, too.

  4. Just more of Joe’s pandering to his butt hurt democrats who insist on living in their overly delicate, easily offended and mentally ill followers.
    “This change was meant to tribute to the culture and history of the people…” With these grammatical errors, they call themselves journalists????

  5. Reinventing and erasing history to fit the butt hurt liberals agenda.The Nazi’s did that too. Good plan.

  6. So Columbus is responsible for everything abhorrent that happened to the Indians for the next 500 years. Wow. It was the new world Europeans It never been know to rest of civilization before his discovery. Europe Asia and Africa would have a new world the Indians but they did not have technology to go and search other parts of the know world. They were still in the Stone Age literally. They had not even discovered metal tools, cloth, writing, domesticating animals etc. etc which the rest of the world had been using for thousands of years. So yes they appeared uncivilized to Europeans. Indians freely traded in many cases the land to Europeans. Natives were also enslaving and conquering other Indians tribes throughout their history. So they were not “noble savages” either. This does not dismiss what was done to them but happened hundreds years after Columbus. The first 200 years of discovery of America the natives and Europeans got along well in many cases. Colonization took place nearly 400 years after Columbus.

    1. Contrary to what was posted here that everyone at the time of Columbus was “stone age” except for Europeans–

      Egypt is in Africa, so is Ethiopia, both amazing ancient civilizations that have been way beyond stone age for thousands of years.

      West Africa (where 95% of American slaves came from) had rich amazing culture and was not stone age when millions of slaves were taken from there. Instead West Africa– during the time that Europeans were taking slaves from there– it was an advanced metal working region, not stone age at all. They worked in bronze, gold and iron.

      Columbus did very bad things to the Native Americans that he encountered, especially on his later visits. He does not therefore deserve a holiday in his name.
      He discovered the Americas but only from the European point of view, there were already millions of people living in the Americas when he “discovered” them.
      Native Americans were not stone age at the time the time of Columbus either. They were amazing metal workers too, specializing in making beautiful artwork out of silver and gold. And Columbus and his successors started killing them and enslaving them to get it. They wanted that metal, forged by those not-at-all stone age Indians, so they killed thousands of them for it–
      There were also very advanced civilizations in now-Mexico and Central America. They could be violent, yes, but the Europeans of the time could also be violent killers. In North America the Muskogee (Creek) Indians in the now US southeast had a legal system with judges and laws and they were farmers. So did the Cherokee. The Iroquois Confederacy in now Canada and New York State had a legal Constitution with stated human rights which the European founding fathers later borrowed from when they wrote the US Constitution.
      I could go on, there is a lot more, but yeah, don’t believe anybody who tells you that, at the time of Columbus, Europeans were the only advanced people.

  7. I object I object
    The indigenous people scalped my baby daddy’s great great great great great grandmother
    Change the name to just another day off for the lazy government

  8. its a fair question to ask: what are the qualifications of something that is a state\ national holiday? Not what has to happen, what makes something so important that its a state\ national holiday?

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