Politics

Cities Celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day Instead Of Columbus Day

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
Native American ceremony Native American ceremony

Though he’s been lauded as the founder of the Americas since he sailed the ocean blue in 1492, there’s been increasing backlash against Christopher Columbus and the holiday created to honor his legacy.

Seattle, Portland, Albuquerque and Minneapolis are among a growing number of cities moving away from Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples' Day, which recognizes indigenous groups who have been systematically murdered and marginalized since Europeans invaded the continent, the Huffington Post reported.

Last year, Seattle and Minneapolis passed resolutions to celebrate Columbus Day alongside Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“For the Native community here, Indigenous Peoples Day means a lot; we actually have something,” Nick Estes of Albuquerque told USA Today. “We understand it’s just a proclamation, but at the same time, we also understand this is the beginning of something greater.”

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The United States has a long history of skirting around the atrocities committed against indigenous groups and the continuing conflict.

"I think for most people who know the reality of colonialism, imperialism, the genocide that happened of the indigenous community, for them the idea of celebrating all of that via Columbus Day is quite abhorrent," Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant told the Huffington Post. "It was important to have the city of Seattle declare that they're not going to be celebrating Columbus Day; they're celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day."

Still, the shift towards Indigenous Peoples’ Day has not been without controversy.

“We support the indigenous peoples having a day of recognition,” said Martin Nigrelle, president of the Board of Directors at the Italian Community Hall in Seattle. "I think we were offended that we weren't included in the choice process and were offended that it was in some ways pointed at the days we celebrate.

"We recognize that Columbus is, should we say, a flawed hero at best in terms of now that we can look at things with a historical perspective, but nonetheless the holiday has come to mean more than just one man for us in terms of its celebration."

Sawant hopes this is the beginning of a cultural change.

"I think that we need a major shift away from the way history is taught in our schools and towards teaching the accurate history," Sawant said. "Teaching this kind of history will empower people of color who come from people of color backgrounds, low-income backgrounds to take real pride in their genuine issues.”

Sources: The Huffington Post, USA Today / Photo credit: Grand Canyon National Park Service/Flickr