Columbus Day, celebrated annually on the second Monday of October, commemorates Christopher Columbus landing in the Americas for the first time in 1492. Now, 10 states and over 100 cities across the U.S. have changed the holiday's name to Indigenous Peoples' Day, to celebrate the history, culture and contributions of Native Americans.
What is Indigenous Peoples' Day?
Throughout American history Columbus was lauded as a hero, but now people realize the harm he brought to the inhabitants of the continent. When Europeans began colonizing the Americas, Native Americans were enslaved, killed and discriminated against for thousands of years. The land of tribes was stolen to make room for colonies, which many institutions benefit from it today. Between 1492 and 1600, an estimated 50 million Native Americans died from the violence of European colonizers and the illnesses that they brought along with them, including smallpox, influenza, and other diseases.
The first Columbus Day celebration was held in New York in 1792 to commemorate 300 years since Columbus's landing, and it became a federal holiday in 1937. In 1992, 500 years after Columbus arrived in the Americas, Berkley, California became the first place in the United States to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day.
Where is the holiday recognized?
The city of Columbia has not changed the name of Columbus Day. In fact, the only city in Missouri to officially rename the holiday is Kansas City, which did so in 2017. In the area where Missouri now stands, there were once seven tribes. Most Native Americans were forced to flee their homes during the Indian Removal Act of 1830, so there are no federally recognized tribes in the state today.
How can I celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day?
Due to COVID-19, there are limited options for celebrating the day in person. However, The Smithsonian is hosting an online panel Monday, Oct. 12 at 1 p.m. to celebrate Native American history, featuring several young activists.