Columbus Day Should Be Renamed ‘Indigenous People’s Day,’ Argue Native Americans

A general view during the 2017 Columbus Day Parade
Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images

Columbus Day is celebrated as the anniversary of the day Christopher Columbus stumbled upon the Americas on October 12, 1492. While it’s a celebration for many people, Native Americans have a rather different view of the day.

The indigenous people of North America have endured terrible discrimination at the hands of the settlers, having their land and livelihoods taken away from them, never to be returned. Celebrating the start of that has been yet another slap in the face.

On Wednesday afternoon, Native Americans stood up on Capitol Hill to support a bill in Kansas that would abolish Columbus Day in the state, according to KSNT. Instead, the plan is to replace the current holiday with a new one that will celebrate the history of America before Europeans settled there: Indigenous People’s Day.

Members of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee heard the case of the Native Americans, who are arguing for House Bill 2009 to replace Columbus Day with one that will instead celebrate those who were in America first. No one spoke up to oppose the proposed bill.

“The passage of this bill will help seek truth and dispel the myth that Columbus discovered America,” said Rep. Ponka-We Victors, D-Wichita. “Changing this day will celebrate the indigenous peoples’ survival, resilience and deep contributions to all peoples that now live on this land.”

The city of Lawrence in Kansas is one that observes Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day, and the city’s mayor Lisa Larsen has spoken up in an effort to convince the House to pass the bill so that the rest of the state can join suit.

“Changing the observance of Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day is long overdue,” Larsen said. “The seal of the great state of Kansas recognizes indigenous peoples. It does not have an image of Columbus on it. It is time that Kansas, as an observed state holiday, does so as well.”

Kickapoo Tribe chairman Lester Randall has also praised the proposed measure, arguing that it would show long overdue respect and recognition to the Native American people still living in the state of Kansas.

Georgia Blackwood, a Native American teenager who testified on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, has also said the school syllabus should change to better reflect the Native American history of the country. She added that having to learn about Columbus and what he did and brought with him is difficult for Native American students.

Four other states already recognize Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day: Alaska, Vermont, Minnesota, and South Dakota. Kansas is hoping to be able to add themselves to the list soon, hopefully before October 12 this year.