Brown University Opts For Indigenous People’s Day Over Columbus Day


Brown University announced on Feb. 2 that the holiday formerly known as Columbus Day would be renamed Indigenous People’s Day, in honor of the contributions Native Americans have made to history and culture.

The move is the result of a motion presented by a student organization, the Native Americans at Brown, who petitioned to have the holiday changed to “recognize the contributions of Indigenous People/Native Americans to our community and our culture and foster a more inclusive community,” according to The New York Times.

At Brown, the holiday has been known as Fall Weekend since 2009, when growing controversy over the role of Christopher Columbus in the mass genocide of Native Americans prompted the University to rename Columbus Day, which has been a federal holiday since 1934.

Thomas Roberts, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and chair of the Faculty Executive Committee, expressed his support for the change following the committee’s vote.

“Over the course of the fall 2015 semester, faculty, staff and students at Brown have engaged in a series of conversations around a proposal to change the name of our current Fall Weekend holiday to Indigenous People’s Day,” Roberts said in a statement. “In discussions prior to the vote, faculty expressed their support for the name change as an opportunity to show support for Native Americans on our campus and beyond, and to celebrate Native American culture and history.”

The change makes Brown University one of many states, cities and organizations that have renamed Columbus Day to reflect the changing views on his treatment of Native Americans. Berkeley, California, Minneapolis, Minnesota and Alaska all celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, while Seattle celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Hawaii calls the holiday Discoverers’ Day, and South Dakota terms it Native Americans’ Day. The state of Washington does not recognize Columbus Day as a legal holiday.

Sources: Brown University, The New York Times / Photo Credit: thurdl01/Flickr

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