Looking at the big calendar that covers my desk — yes, it’s a paper desk-blotter-style one, I’m old-fashioned that way — I can’t help but notice that we have a holiday coming up next Monday. Back in the day, i.e., when I was a kid, this holiday meant schools would be closed on a Monday, a welcome break at the start of a new school year, breaking up the long slog between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.
I don’t give a lot of thought to this holiday any more, though, and I don’t think it’s just that I no longer get the day off. The reality is, at least for me, is that it just doesn’t resonate.
The holiday in question is, of course, Columbus Day, or, increasingly around the United States, Indigenous Peoples Day. Columbus Day is a federal holiday commemorating the landing of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492, and occurs this year on October 10. It was unofficially celebrated in a number of cities and states as early as the 18th century, but did not become a federal holiday until 1937.
As of last year, however, as many as 130 cities and a handful of states across the country have exchanged Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples Day. For the first time in 2021, a presidential proclamation officially recognized Indigenous Peoples Day, though, unlike Columbus Day, it is not observed as a federal holiday.
The list of states which acknowledge Indigenous Peoples Day, including the state of Michigan, grows yearly. So too does the list of states and cities that have intentionally kicked Columbus Day to the curb. In the words of a young indigenous-rights activist from Arizona, the reason for this shift are obvious:
Should we recognize a man who raped, killed children, killed women, decimated the Native American population here?
I think this raises interesting questions about the holidays we observe and why we observe them, especially those marking what some view as controversial parts of our national history. So, just thinking about next week’s holiday, is this growing abandonment of Columbus Day important, in your view? Would you support a federal holiday for Indigenous Peoples Day as a replacement for Columbus Day? How should this holiday be marked, especially by the majority of us who are not indigenous ourselves, or have any indigenous roots? In short, what would it mean to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day? And do we lose anything important if we stop celebrating Columbus?
We’ll talk about this, and likely more, in our conversation this evening. Join us for the discussion starting at 7 pm at 313 Pizza Bar in downtown Lake Orion.