Politics

Another Big U.S. City Is Abolishing Columbus Day

Denver on Monday said it would join 14 other U.S. cities in celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day this year.

The unanimous city council decision was symbolic: The city doesn't observe the holiday with office closures, for example. But council members wanted to make a strong gesture, The Denver Post reported:

"Our city owes our very founding to the indigenous peoples in Denver," Councilman Paul Lopez said, noting that Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes used land at the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River as seasonal encampments.

"We do this because our history books erase such history," Lopez said, adding: "You honor it by making it no longer invisible."

Native American activists have pushed for years to abolish Columbus Day, which to them and many others celebrates an explorer who represented centuries of colonialism, enslavement, and exploitation.

It started in 2014.

Minneapolis and Seattle were the first two major cities to change their observance of Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day in 2014, with several cities following suit. (Columbus Day commemorates the Oct. 12, 1492, arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas; a federal holiday is observed on the second Monday of October, which falls on Oct. 10 this year.)

Your city may not have officially swapped Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples Day, but you likely live in a place where the day isn't observed as an official holiday. Columbus Day is one of the most inconsistently celebrated U.S. holidays, with only 23 states giving their employees the day off as a paid holiday, according to the Pew Research Center.

Progress is being made, meanwhile, in a national campaign to rebrand the day as Indigenous Peoples Day and away from Columbus Day, though it remains an uphill fight.

The Oklahoma City city council last month rejected a second attempt to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. The council contended that the holiday is a federal issue, since it is not formally recognized in Oklahoma City, local station KFOR reported.

"Columbus was a murderer, a rapist, a sex trafficker," David Hill of the American Indian Movement Oklahoma told KFOR. "He started those things in America. And these people who want to keep holding him up as a hero, that shows where they're coming from. That shows who their hero is, and that shows they perpetuate racism."

[h/t Fusion]