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Everything You Need to Know About Indigenous Peoples Day

2 minute read

Los Angeles just became the latest city to adopt Indigenous Peoples Day in favor of Columbus Day. The holiday has been gaining support across the country as Seattle, Minneapolis and Berkeley, Calif. have already made the alternative to Columbus Day official.

Here’s everything you need to know about Indigenous Peoples Day, how it’s different from Columbus Day and why more cities are celebrating it.

What is Indigenous Peoples Day?

Indigenous Peoples Day celebrates Native Americans and challenges the idea that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America. Berkeley was the first city, and South Dakota the first state, in the United States to recognize the holiday in 1992.

The idea of a Columbus Day alternative actually traces back to the 1970s, and the United Nations declared August 9 as International Day of the World’s Indigenous People in 1994.

What cities have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day?

Along with Berkeley and South Dakota, a number of cities and states have adopted Indigenous Peoples Day, including Denver, Phoenix, Albuquerque, N.M., Portland.

States like Alaska, Vermont, have also replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. Oberlin, Ohio and Bangor, Maine abolished Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day along with Los Angeles this month.

What is Columbus Day?

Columbus Day honors Christopher Columbus and his arrival in the Americas in 1492.

When did Columbus Day start?

Columbus Day was first recognized in 1937 when then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt made it a federal holiday. Lobbying by Italian-American community groups led to its creation as a holiday starting in the early 1900s.

Why do people want to replace Columbus Day?

Columbus Day has been criticized for celebrating the discovery of a place that was already inhabited and because Columbus himself is considered responsible for the rape and murder of those indigenous people.

“One of the biggest misconceptions about Columbus is that he was righteous,” Leo Killsback, a citizen of the Northern Cheyenne Nation and assistant professor of American Indian Studies at Arizona State University, told CNN. Killsback also noted that Columbus never actually landed in what is now the United States.

Berkeley Loni Hancock, who was the Mayor of Berkeley in 1992, told TIME Magazine in 2014 that they opted for the alternative to Columbus Day because the existing celebrations were “Eurocentric and [have] ignored the brutal realities of the colonization of indigenous peoples.”

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