Valerie Strauss: From Columbus Day to Indigenous People's Day

Portrait of a Man, Said to be Christopher Columbus, by Sebastiano del Piombo. Image from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Americans have been celebrating Christopher Columbus for hundreds for years, Valerie Strauss writes for The Washington Post, as more and communities join the Indigenous People's Day movement:
The first Columbus Day celebration recorded in the United States was held in New York in 1792 to honor Italian-American heritage and to mark Oct. 12, 1492, the day that Columbus and his ships first made landfall on an island in the Caribbean Sea.

In 1892, according to, President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation encouraging Americans to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s voyage with patriotic festivities.

In 1937, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Congress, bowing to lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, an influential Catholic group that wanted a Catholic hero to be honored, proclaimed Oct. 12 to be Columbus Day, a national holiday. In 1971, the holiday date was changed to the second Monday in October.

Over recent decades, the holiday has been the target of protests at Columbus Day celebrations, and some places have changed the name and focus of the holiday. For example, Berkeley, Calif., replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in 1992 to honor the original inhabitants of the Caribbean islands where Columbus made landfall and ruled. In 1989, South Dakota started calling the holiday Native American Day, and Alabama celebrates a combination of Columbus Day and American Indian Heritage Day. Hawaii calls it Discovery Day. In the Bahamas, it is called Discovery Day, and as Dia de la Hispanidad and Fiesta Nacional in Spain.

Get the Story:
Valerie Strauss: Why is Columbus Day still a U.S. federal holiday? (The Washington Post 10/11)

Another Opinion:
Ángel González: Celebrating Christopher Columbus on Seattle’s ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Day’ (The Seattle Times 10/12)

Also Today:
Add Indigenous Peoples’ Day to your calendar? (The Albuquerque Journal 10/9)
Olympia’s first Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration set for Oct. 12 (The Olympian 10/9)
4-day Indigenous Peoples Days kicks off Friday (The Union 10/9)
Portland to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day (AP 10/9)
Indigenous People's History Day to be celebrated Saturday in Redding (The Redding Record-Searchlight 10/10)
Today in history: October 12 is Indigenous Peoples’ Day (People's World 10/9)
Indigenous Peoples’ Week Oct. 12 to 16 at HSU (The Mad River Union 10/9)
Creating tribal awareness: Tribe celebrates culture at Indigenous Peoples Days (The Marysville/Yuba City Appeal-Democrat 10/10)
A new day for a new world: Whom else should we celebrate besides Christopher Columbus? (The Washington Post 10/10)
On second Indigenous Peoples Day, Native activists see more work to be done (The Seattle Globalist 10/11)
Carrboro declares ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Day’ (The News & Observer 10/10)
Village of Lewiston celebrating both Indigenous Peoples Day and Columbus Day (The Niagara Gazette 10/11)
Muscogee Creek Nation Principal Chief Tiger issues October 12 as 'Indigenous People's Day (KJRH 10/12)
More cities are recognizing Native Americans on Columbus Day (AP 10/12)
Why some celebrate Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day (KFOR 10/12)
Indigenous People’s Day 2015: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know ( 10/12)
Seattle, Olympia celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day (My Northwest 10/12)

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