Friday, April 26, Maine officially replaced Columbus Day celebrations with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This decision comes after only a few weeks earlier in April, when New Mexico passed the same law. The new holiday will still be observed on the second Monday in October.
According to a CNN article, “Maine becomes the latest state to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” There are currently five states that celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day. These states include: Alaska, Oregon, Minnesota, New Mexico and Maine. However, there are a handful of states that celebrate both Columbus Day and some variation of ‘Indigenous Peoples Day’ such as: South Dakota’s ‘Native American Day’ and Hawaii’s ‘Discoverers’ Day.’
Simon Moya-Smith is an Oglala Lakota and Chicano journalist, an advocate for Native American issues and supports abolishing Columbus Day.
“This is a trend and I hope it continues. Christopher Columbus was brutal to the indigenous peoples he encountered. He was a slave trader for the Portuguese before he made his transatlantic voyage; he and his men murdered and maimed and enslaved. Columbus does not deserve a state or federal holiday,” said Moya-Smith.
“Along with abolishing Columbus Day, all statues and monuments to him should be removed. Columbus would hang 13 Natives at a time: one for every 12 apostle and one more for Jesus Christ. A murderer like Columbus does not deserve exaltation.”
Paul Pitino, Arcata City Council member, former mayor and an Italian himself, signed a proclamation for the City of Arcata to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The proclamation was adopted by the city in 2016.
“And believe me I came from deep Italian stuff, man. And when I looked at it, I thought, you know, ‘I don’t care if this guy’s Italian.’ He did this boat ride. That’s all he gets credit for. He didn’t find anything,” said Pitino. “And I think that narrative that’s put out there in the standard history stuff, or what the government proselytizes us with… You know, there’s always purposes to it but on the face, it’s just give someone some credit.”
This is a trend and I hope it continues. Christopher Columbus was brutal to the indigenous peoples he encountered… Columbus does not deserve a state or federal holiday.Simon Moya-Smith
According to the New York Times, “Should Columbus Day be Replaced with
Indigenous Peoples’ Day?” many of the advocates who wish to keep the federally-observed holiday are Italian-Americans and people with Italian ancestry. Some of whom believe that taking away the holiday erases Italians’ role and contributions to American society.
Seidner is also an advocate for local Native issues and supports the celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
“I think it’s important because people tend to forget their history. Or don’t learn their history about where they live and I think it’s important to give credence to those that were here first. Who have always been here,” said Seidner.
“Well even as a child, I was in the fourth grade, and my teacher, had did this thing about Columbus Day and she wanted to know, ‘who discovered America?’ And all the kids’ arms go up in the air and they all said, ‘Columbus discovered America’ and I put my little brown arm up and said, ‘The Wiyot people had always been here,’” said Seidner. “And I’m glad that they’re taking the day back, so you know that fallacy… You’re teaching us something that didn’t really happen. And why should we uphold somebody that took slaves from these different countries and sent them back to Europe and did just horrible things. So, I don’t understand giving him that kind of credence that he was just something wonderful.”
Berkley was the first U.S. city to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples celebrations, indeed influencing many more cities to do the same. Eight major cities in California have taken matters into their own hands and have replaced the explorer’s holiday to acknowledge and recognize original peoples of this land. These cities include: Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, San Fernando, Long Beach, San Luis Obispo, Burbank, Watsonville, and Berkley.
More and more people are questioning the deeds of Columbus. As the public questions the importance and the cost of celebrating and not celebrating his exploits, states are being compelled to do the same. The question is not if, but when and which state will be the next to adopt Indigenous Peoples Day?