Some states and cities across the U.S. are saying goodbye to Columbus Day and instead celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day, in a move meant to recognize not the years of genocide spurred on by the Italian explorer, but instead the plentiful contributions native people have made to the nation.
Columbus Day, which remains a federal holiday, serves to honor Christopher Columbus. According to a Congressional Research Service report, it was established to “honor the courage and determination which enabled generation after generation of immigrants from many nations to find freedom and opportunity in America” thanks to his voyage to the New World.
But in recent years, states like New Mexico, Vermont, Maine, and more have done away the holiday, turning their focus instead to the indigenous people who lived here long before European explorers sailed the ocean blue.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill in April that officially swapped Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples Day in the state, saying in a statement at the time that “there is power in a name and in who we choose to honor.”
Shortly after, New Mexico and Vermont did the same, with the latter passing legislation that said the switch would “aid in the cultural development of Vermont’s recognized tribes, while enabling all indigenous peoples in Vermont and elsewhere to move forward and formulate positive outcomes, from the history of colonization.”
Washington, D.C., has joined the trend, passing legislation earlier this month to officially rename the holiday Indigenous Peoples Day, according to the Washington Post.
The name change is only temporary, though D.C. Council Member David Grosso is reportedly fighting to make it permanent, arguing Columbus “enslaved, colonized, mutilated, and massacred thousands of Indigenous People in the Americas.”
Meanwhile, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order earlier this month renaming the holiday, according to The Capital Times. He said his goal was to encourage schools to use the day “as an opportunity to engage students across the state on the importance of Native American history, culture and tribal sovereignty.”
Various other states, like North Carolina, South Dakota, Oregon, and Alaska (which is one of several states to have never recognized Columbus Day as a state holiday in the first place, according to the Burlington Free Press) have recognized Indigenous Peoples Day, too, with many hosting special events like parades to mark the occasion.
“Celebrating Columbus Day continues a dangerous narrative that erases Native American voices and minimizes the federal government’s attempt at genocide and forced assimilation,” Democratic Congresswoman Deb Haaland of New Mexico, one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress last fall, said in a statement to NBC News.
The push to change the holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day was started by Native American advocates in 1992, according to the Associated Press. Berkeley, California is credited with being the first city in the U.S. to adopt the holiday that same year, according to the Daily Californian.