Latinx Heritage Month: Indigenous Peoples’ Day
October 14th is a national holiday: for most, a three day weekend, a chance to take a day off, and a time to settle into fall. But what you call this day depends on where you live, and to some extent, what version of history you celebrate.
On October 10th, 2019, Washington, D.C., joined 8 states and at least 130 cities across the United States that have renamed “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous Peoples Day,” in honor of the rich history and plight of the indigenous people of the Northern American continent.
Some places have renamed this day with other titles that celebrate indigenous people, such as Hawaii’s “Discoverers Day” , when the discovery of the islands by the Polynesian people is celebrated, or Summit City, Ohio’s “First Peoples Day”, intended to celebrate the North American indigenous tribes.
The controversy over the naming of this day centers around the Italian-American community of the United States, who helped establish Columbus Day as a national holiday in 1937. Back then, Italian immigrants faced intense discrimination in the United States, and many looked to historical figure as a symbol of belonging within the country.
“Frankly, it’s an accident of history that Columbus is honored this way in the first place. Columbus Day was officially designated as a federal holiday in 1937, despite the fact Columbus did not discover North America, despite the fact millions of people were already living in North America upon his arrival to the Americas, and despite the fact Columbus never set foot on the shores of the current United States,” said D.C. Council member David Grosso on Tuesday during a council meeting.
“I fully support the establishment of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but what I don’t support is eliminating Columbus Day,” countered fellow council member Jack Evans at the meeting. “I have gotten a number of emails, a number of calls, from constituents in my ward, largely of Italian descent, who feel that taking this action is not fair.”
In San Francisco, a Sunrise Ceremony is performed every year on Alcatraz Island, to commemorate the occupation of Alcatraz Island from November 1969 to June 1971 by a group of Native American leaders and activists.
“I come out here because it’s who I am,” said Desiree Adams, an indigenous woman of Navajo descent, to KQED. “It’s in my blood to be here and stand for my ancestors and to keep our tradition and culture alive.”
Check out the current list of cities and states that have renamed the holiday here.