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Happy Columbus Day?

October 10, 2014

How groups around the country are revamping a very controversial holiday.

  • Columbus Day 2014Columbus Day is a federal holiday, meaning that many government offices are closed and there’s no mail service. Many state governments however have passed laws to no longer observe the day—as the arrival of Columbus and European settlers led to the mass slaughter of Native Americans and the eradication of their cultures. Alaska, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming are the states that do not recognize the holiday.
  • The Seattle City Council unanimously approved a resolution earlier this week to change Columbus Day in the city to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The Seattle School Board will adjust its observances to reflect the new holiday, and the new subject. Seattle is the second city to make the shift. Last April, the Minneapolis City Council acted to recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day in tandem with Columbus Day.
  • South Dakota made a similar shift, recognizing the second Monday in October as Native American Day.
  • Cities and states have had to re-evaluate or rebrand their Columbus Day observances, which formally commemorates the day in October 1492 when when Columbus and his crew arrived in North America (and not on the American mainland, but in an island in the Caribbean). New York has a number of cultural heritage festivals and parades; its Columbus Day festivities now are more of a celebration of Italian-Americans, and less of Columbus, who was Italian.
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