Home Travel+Culture Trading Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples' Day is Overdue for Some

Trading Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples’ Day is Overdue for Some

 Dancers from the Anahuacalmecac International University Preparatory pray before an Indigenous People's Day Celebration in Hollywood on Oct. 8, 2017.David McNew / Getty Images file
Dancers from the Anahuacalmecac International University Preparatory pray before an Indigenous People’s Day Celebration in Hollywood on Oct. 8, 2017.David McNew / Getty Images file

First reported by NBC News

When Grand Forks, North Dakota, replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day in July, Courtney Davis Souvannasacd brought her son, Benjamin, with her to the City Council chambers to watch the vote.

“It’s not something you typically bring a 12-year-old kid to,” Souvannasacd, an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, told NBC News. “It’s kind of dry.”

The council unanimously voted in favor of the resolution, and The Grand Forks Herald said the switch happened “almost anticlimactically.” But for Souvannasacd, who was one of the many Native people in the city advocating for the change, it was an emotional day.

Benjamin had been born on Columbus Day 12 years earlier. Replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, she said, felt like the start of a long overdue recognition of the indigenous people who lived in the U.S. for thousands of years before Europeans like Columbus sailed across the Atlantic.

“My son was so elated,” Souvannasacd said. “I will never forget the feeling.”

Around the country, cities and states have slowly been moving to declare the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, meant to honor the people indigenous to the land that is now North America. And advocates for Indigenous Peoples’ Day want to make clear that Christopher Columbus wasn’t just an “explorer” — he was the beginning of an era of decimation.

“Celebrating Columbus Day continues a dangerous narrative that erases Native American voices and minimizes the federal government’s attempt at genocide and forced assimilation,” Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., who last fall became one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, said in a statement to NBC News.

Haaland’s home state of New Mexico will be celebrating its inaugural statewide Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Monday, as will VermontMaineLouisiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. Columbus Day remains a federal holiday, but over 100 cities, towns and college campuses have made the switch.

“Indigenous Peoples’ Day is about acknowledging indigenous peoples’ complex history in this country and celebrating the culture, heritage, and strength of native communities everywhere,” Haaland said.

Read more from Ben Kesslen at NBCNEWS.com

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