SACRAMENTO (CBS13/AP) — Columbus Day was celebrated across California on Monday, but with cities like Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Richmond, and Sebastapol, calling it Indigenous Peoples Day, you have to wonder how long it will remain “Columbus Day” in Sacramento.
Across the country, there have been calls to change the name of the holiday, and instead, honor a group that has often been overlooked. In light of recent protests over the killing of black people by police, the calls have grown louder.
“Textbooks in our schools say Columbus discovered America, but when in essence indigenous peoples inhabited all of the Americas,” said Jonathan Nez, president of the Navajo Nation.
Indigenous leaders say the goal is to commemorate the complex history and achievements of Indigenous people.
“It is reimagining this day. It’s uplifting native people. Our history is American history. It should be part of the narrative,” said Gem Shandiin Labarta, a cultural interpreter with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
A growing number of states, including Vermont, Maine, Louisiana, Michigan, and New Mexico have switched from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
The movement to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day has been around for decades, starting when advocates began pointing out that Columbus’ arrival to North America was followed by centuries of genocide against indigenous populations. As such, there have been some who want to get rid of statues of Columbus across the country.
Regardless of what happens with Columbus, advocates say there are several ways to honor the people who were here first.
“You can read a book by an indigenous author, connect with indigenous plants to the region in which you live to support your ecosystem,” Labarta said.
The leaders say the only way for a more inclusive version of history to take hold is through education.
In July, workers removed a statue of Christopher Columbus from the center of the California Capitol rotunda.
Statues of Columbus and other colonial figures were toppled or taken down in the U.S. and beyond, following the uproar over racism after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The depiction of Columbus appealing to Queen Isabella I, who financed his voyage to the New World in 1492 that set off European colonization of the Americas and the deaths of native people, had been displayed inside the capitol building since 1883.