Columbus Day & Indigenous Peoples Day, 2019
Columbus Day, October 14, 2019 dawns once again for the United States of America. Americans have been celebrating it as a national holiday since 1937, but times have changed....
The day was meant to commemorate the landing of Christopher Columbus in the Americas on October 12, 1492. He set his sails in August of the same year from the shores of Palos, Spain for the gold and rich spice islands of Asia, but he landed in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Columbus Day to be a federal holiday in 1937. Later in 1971, the date was changed to be every second Monday in October. What most do not know is how the Day actually came to be. Lobbyists made it happen.
The Knights of Columbus, an influential Catholic fraternal organization, was reported to have intensely lobbied for the holiday, along with New York City’s Italian leader, Generoso Pope. What is interesting to note here is that there were protests going on against Columbus Day even at that time. But rather than the present day’s protests against the symbolism of slavery and colonization, their objections were religious-oriented.
The first city in the United States to celebrate Columbus Day turned out to be a celebration of Italian-American heritage in San Francisco, California in 1869. Across the bay — 123 years later in 1992 — Berkeley became the first to remove Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day, and the first state to celebrate CD was Colorado in 1907.
Currently, there are many U.S. states and cities throughout our country that have chosen to follow Berkeley’s lead. Other areas celebrate Italian-American Heritage with parties, parades, food and music.
Whether it be to share Columbus Day with Indigenous Day, or replace “Columbus” with Indigenous Peoples Day, (or Native American Day) we have the right to celebrate our history as a people in peace and joy. May we do so with respect for all life.
Statue group titled Columbus’ Last Appeal to Queen Isabella located in the Rotunda, California State Capitol.