Politics & Government

Why are all these cities ditching Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day?

Preschool children from the Daybreak Star Center perform at a celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, at Seattle's City Hall. Seattle began observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2014 to promote the well-being and growth of Seattle’s American Indian and Indigenous community.
Preschool children from the Daybreak Star Center perform at a celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, at Seattle's City Hall. Seattle began observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2014 to promote the well-being and growth of Seattle’s American Indian and Indigenous community. AP

Los Angeles County on Tuesday followed suit with the City of Los Angeles’ August decision to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day on its calendar.

On Wednesday, similar news came out of Salt Lake City. Thursday it was Austin, Texas.

California and Austin aside, this is not an item on the liberal agenda. Geography would seem to have more to do with who has and who hasn’t declared a day to recognize the indigenous than does politics. Three cities in Oklahoma made the switch this year, too.

Nor is this a new phenomenon. The City of Berkeley, Calif. set the trend 25 years ago, when in 1992 it became the first U.S. city to rename Columbus Day in honor of Native Americans.

No fewer than 60 cities, towns and municipalities in the U.S. have hopped on board with the trend, most in the last three years.

Activists calling for more recognition for Native Americans hail the move as a “long overdue victory for civil rights.” They say it’s a move meant to shift focus from the man whose expeditions were the catalyst for the destruction of Native Americans onto the historically overlooked populations themselves.

“This gesture of replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day is a very small step in apologizing and in making amends,” Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin told the L.A. Times in August.

From Seattle to L.A., to Oklahoma and Texas and throughout the East Coast, city governments have seen little backlash from the apology or from letting go of one long-held tradition to start another.

Columbus Day was designated a national holiday in 1937. The primary voices of opposition to the growing trend in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day have been Italian Americans who view Columbus Day to be a touchstone for Italian heritage in the U.S.

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