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Indigenous Peoples Day Celebrated In Cities Across The U.S. Instead Of Columbus Day

As much of the U.S. celebrates Columbus Day on Monday, nine new cities will join a growing movement that celebrates Native Americans on Indigenous Peoples Day.

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More cities in the United States on Monday will honor Native Americans — instead of celebrating the traditional Columbus Day — as an indigenous movement gains momentum.

Nine new cities decided this year to abolish Columbus Day and celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday, including Albuquerque, New Mexico; Portland, Oregon; St. Paul, Minnesota; Bexar County, Texas; Traverse City, Michigan; and Olympia, Washington.

Last year, the holiday was celebrated for the first time in Minneapolis and Seattle, encouraging Native American leaders across the country to push for a new holiday on the second Monday of October that recognizes indigenous people, the Associated Press reported.

The push follows a decades-long campaign that was first realized in 1990, when South Dakota renamed Columbus Day to Native American Day. Two years later, Berkeley, California also created Indigenous Peoples Day.

Two other California cities, Santa Cruz and Sebastopol, as well as Dane County, Wisconsin now also celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, according to Indian Country Today. Alaska and Oregon do not celebrate the day at all, while Hawaii calls it Discoverers' Day, honoring the Polynesian explorers who first arrived at the archipelago.

The federal holiday for Christopher Columbus was established in 1934. Activists say it celebrates a painful history of colonialism and genocide that followed the explorer's 1492 arrival, while ignoring the significant contributions of indigenous people.

Supporters of the holiday say it commemorates an important explorer and the relationship between Europe and America. Many Italian-Americans also mention Columbus' Italian roots and say the holiday is a celebration of their heritage.

John Viola, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Italian American Foundation, said to Reuters that changing Columbus Day dishonors 25 million Italian-Americans and their ancestors.

"By default, we're like the collateral damage of this trend," Viola said.

For over a decade, San Francisco and several other cities have called the holiday Italian Heritage Day instead.

Native Americans make up about 2% of the U.S. population, making them the nation's smallest demographic.

"For the Native community here, Indigenous Peoples Day means a lot. We actually have something," said Nick Estes, who is coordinating a celebration Monday following the Albuquerque City Council's adoption of the holiday. "We understand it's just a proclamation, but at the same time, we also understand this is the beginning of something greater."

Take That, #ColumbusDay! Celebrate NY Indigenous Peoples Day Mon. & Pow Wow This Weekend - http://t.co/gr3zyIKbY6

Parades and festivals honoring Columbus Day have been met by protests over the years, with many in Denver becoming confrontational. The city stopped the protest for almost a decade, after a 1992 parade became particularly tense.

Native American groups have now turned to City Hall, hoping to make changes in the holiday there. Oklahoma City is set to vote on a similar proposal later this month.

Still, protests are planned near places honoring the explorer, such as in midtown Manhattan, where the world's largest Columbus parade is held, according to Reuters.


Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.

Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at michelle@buzzfeed.com.

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