In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. This little tidbit was taught all across America in elementary schools. It was taught that Christopher Columbus was the one to discover America. Columbus Day was even made into a federal holiday in 1937.
The problem with this is that it’s all false. He didn’t discover North America. Millions of people were already living on the continent when he arrived. Further, Columbus never actually set foot on the shorts of what is currently the United States.
David Grosso, an at-large Councilmember of the Washington DC city council, has been kind enough to remind everyone about this.
Monday, October 14 is the day that everyone will celebrate the holiday. However, there has been a rush to approve legislation so that it will no longer be named Columbus Day. The move is to rename the holiday “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”
The DC city council isn’t the first one to want the holiday to be renamed. Many states and cities across the country have been making the move in recent years.
The DC Council was so passionate about this holiday that they invoked a special provision that would allow them to have emergency legislation. It would allow the sponsors of the bill to force a vote so that it didn’t require multiple votes, committees, and even congressional approval.
The emergency vote allows it to stay in effect for no more than 90 days following the signature from Mayor Muriel Bowser. Then, another bill is in the works to ensure that the change is permanent.
Grosso has been fighting for the name change of the holiday for quite some time. He feels it unfair to celebrate a holiday falsely under the name of someone who actually “enslaved, colonized, mutilated, and massacred” thousands of the people who were already on the continent when Columbus arrived.
After the emergency legislation passed, Grosso took to Twitter to thank some of the people who made it happen after five years of fighting. 12 of the 13 members voted for the temporary provision while only one, Jack Evans, voted present.
Grosso blames Phil Mendelson for stalling the legislation over the past five years. However, Mendelson voted for the bill on Tuesday. According to media reports, Evans chose to vote “present” because his Italian American constituents were reaching out to oppose the move.
While the DC city council got their way for identifying the holiday as Indigenous People’s Day now instead of Columbus Day, there is still going to be a fight to make sure that it is permanent. They wanted to declare this particular piece of legislation as an “emergency” so that it could get the vote prior to the holiday actually taking place. It seems odd that the council would consider the name of a holiday to be an emergency, but they were able to accomplish their goal.
The renaming of the holiday is only for Washington DC, however. As a whole across the nation, the holiday is still identified as Columbus Day.
The resolution from the DC City Council explains that they believe that Columbus Day reveres a “divisive figure” that runs counterproductive to the diversity, equality, and inclusion that the District of Columbia embodies. They do not want to perpetuate hate and oppression by allowing the holiday to continue to celebrate someone who had a negative impact on history. The Council also wanted to acknowledge that there is a negative historic and continuous impact on how European colonization affected the Indigenous People of the Americas. They have reaffirmed the District’s commitment to “equality, diversity, and inclusion for all.”
The “Indigenous People’s Day” that Washington DC is now calling the holiday is called by other names across the country. In South Dakota, it’s referred to as “Native American Day.” South Dakota has been celebrating the holiday by a different name for years, primarily because almost 10 percent of the state’s population is made up of Native Americans. Much of this was a decision made by Governor George Mickelson in the late 1980s as a way of reconciling between the whites and the Natives following historically bad relations.
Various cities celebrate “Indigenous People’s Day,” including Los Angeles, Seattle, and Minneapolis – and now DC can be added to the list. California has chosen to be a one-off, celebrating Native American Day on the fourth Friday in September while Tennessee celebrates “American Indian Day” on the fourth Monday of September.
Columbus may have sailed the ocean blue but it’s clear that he didn’t land in the United States when he did. It’s expected that Columbus Day will disappear altogether over the next few years.