Each year in the Americas, the second Monday in October is named the Columbus Day holiday, a chance to celebrate Christopher Columbus’s initial arrival to the New World on Oct. 12, 1492. However, on Aug. 30, the Los Angeles City Council voted to join a new movement to eradicate the holiday and instead replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
As Columbus Day marks the day Italian explorer Columbus’s voyage arrived in the Caribbean, Italian-Americans take pride in the historic day as a symbol of their heritage. Nevertheless, others argue the official entry of Europeans into the Americas also marks the beginning of a long-standing period of genocide against native peoples.
The Native American community hopes to raise greater awareness for the murder and enslavement of native indigenous Americans that took place as the Europeans arrived, including those on Columbus’s voyage. Often times, this message becomes lost in the meaning of Columbus Day, and is all too easy to forget.
Regardless of opposition from Italian-American groups, and their attempts to compromise with the council by changing the name or date of the proposed replacement holiday, the switch officially took place on a 14-1 vote.
“This gesture of replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a very small step in apologizing and in making amends,” Councilman Mike Bonin, who comes from an Italian-rooted family, said.
Despite the obvious name change, Indigenous Peoples’ Day will continue to be a paid holiday for all city employees.
Support for the holiday began in 1977 at the United Nations’ International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas. The first city in the nation to reinstate Columbus Day as the Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People, and later Indigenous Peoples’ Day, was Berkeley in 1992.
To date, dozens of cities have made the switch, many even unanimously. The Los Angeles County joins several other major cities in the United States, including Seattle, Denver, and Phoenix, as well as the states of Minnesota, Vermont, and Alaska, on the decision.
The topic will continue to spark discussion and debate throughout the United States, and will likely reach approval in more city and state legislations in the near future.