On Monday, Oct. 3, Denver city officials agreed in a 12-0 vote to discontinue celebrating Columbus Day. Instead, the 2nd Monday of October will be Indigenous People’s Day in honor of the Native Americans that died due to European colonialism.
According to KUSA 9 News, many officials believed the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus— and his day honoring him— is insensitive. And the move would hopefully curve protests by Native American activists who believe the day is racist and historically inaccurate.
Denver has now joined 9 other states who have done the same. Earlier this year, State Rep. Joe Salazar, a Democrat from Thornton, who pushed for the legislation had some strong words in favor of the change.
“The atrocities that Columbus engaged in against indigenous peoples was followed up by European nations’ heinous conquest of the Americas,” he said.
“That kind of ruthlessness, genocide and inhumanity leaves a mark on the world, even to this day. Replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a small part in restoring just a little bit of our humanity and honoring people who still exist today despite all attempts to wipe them off the planet.”
The day has come under attack for celebrating a man many people believe to be racist. Nearly 500 years ago, Columbus set sail to the Americas in service of the Spanish crown searching for gold and spices. However, his trip proved fatal for the indigenous people who were outgunned and taken advantage of.
“To us, he represents racism,” Tessa McLean, member of the Colorado American Indian Movement tells reporters. “I think it was awesome. It’s a great foundation. I would like to keep building blocks and eventually get the entire Columbus Day holiday abolished in the state of Colorado.”
However, Italian-Americans in the city has criticized the move. Anna Vann of the Sons of Italy community organization insists the explorer was not racist.
“This is a national holiday just like the Fourth of July or Labor Day or Memorial Day,” Vann opines. “There’s no reason for anything to be different for Columbus Day as it is for any other holiday.”
Even though the official holiday changed, the city will host two parades on Oct.8 commemorating both Native Americans and Columbus.