Debate around Indigenous Peoples’ Day vs. Columbus Day 2021 explored

President Joe Biden recently won many praises after issuing the proclamation for Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2021. However, the decision sparked a debate online with some still speaking in favour of Columbus Day.

The President’s announcement caught many by surprise and appealed to many people’s sentiments.

“Today, we also acknowledge the painful history of wrongs and atrocities that many European explorers inflicted on Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities,” Biden wrote.

We take a look at the opinions and arguments of people across the aisle with this article.

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A young boy from the Kayapo tribe is introduced to a young girl from the Krenak tribe at a protest camp in Brasilia, on September 9, 2021. – The Supreme Federal Court of Brazil (STF) resumed on Wednesday, September 8, a trial that could put in check hundreds of indigenous lands pending demarcation in the country. (Photo by CARL DE SOUZA / AFP) (Photo by CARL DE SOUZA/AFP via Getty Images)
Photo by CARL DE SOUZA/AFP via Getty Images
Indigenous Peoples’ Day vs. Columbus Day 2021 debate explored

The earliest known Columbus Day celebration in America took place on Oct. 12, 1792, on the 300th anniversary of the Italian explorers landing.

For those who support it, Columbus Day represents the legacy of the man who is credited with “discovering” the New World. However, since the 1990s, a growing number of states are slowly replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

South Dakota, a state with the third-largest population of Native Americans, became the first state to officially recognize Native Americans’ Day in 1990.

More than a dozen states including Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina, Oklahoma as well as the District of Columbia now recognize the holiday.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is meant to honour the culture and history of Native Americans who have been living in the United States both before and after Columbus’ arrival.

While Columbus Day was initially meant to honour the legacy of the explorer, in recent years, it became a celebration of an Italian-American community that has contributed immensely to America’s growth and development.

However, with the cultural shift in 2021 and years preceding it, the celebration of Columbus Day does not sit well with many now. For many Native Americans, Columbus Day is a “controversial holiday.”

According to Susan C. Faircloth, an enrolled member of the Coharie Tribe and professor of education at Colorado State University, many indigenous people view Columbus as a colonizer rather than a discoverer. They believe that his arrival led to the forceful taking of their lands and widespread death and loss for the natives.

However, on the other side of the aisle, foraying away from celebrating Columbus Day in 2021 is being considered by many as a disregard of the Italian-American community and their contributions.

In 2021, some parents in New Jersey protested that the local school’s decision to observe Indigenous Peoples’ day was a failure to honor the legacy of Italian immigrants.

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Biden becomes first President to mark the day

President Biden highlighted the “atrocities” that the indigenous people had suffered during his proclamation of the holiday, which falls on Monday, October 11.

The President praised Italian-Americans who followed in Columbus’ footsteps for their “lasting contributions” to the United States. However, he also spoke about the “painful history of wrongs and atrocities” that was inflicted on indigenous and tribal communities.”

“It is a measure of our greatness as a Nation that we do not seek to bury these shameful episodes of our past — that we face them honestly, we bring them to the light, and we do all we can to address them,” the proclamation read.

The President also noted that Columbus’ arrival ushered a “wave of devastation ” for Native Americans that saw violence, displacement and assimilation.

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Internet users react to the upcoming holiday

While there was a wave of joy on Twitter after the President’s proclamation, some people had different views.

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I have decided to start my 250 mile backpacking trek from my ancestral homelands here in Shiprock, NM to Dook’o’oosliid, my people’s Western Sacred Mountain (San Francisco Peaks), on Monday. On Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

I’m estimating that it will take me 14 days.
— Biyáál (@gbeyale) October 8, 2021

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Thank you Laverne! Columbus Day became less about Columbus and more about Italian heritage and it is the one day of the year we ( my grandparents immigrants) celebrated .
— BillyD422 (@BillyD422) October 8, 2021

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We should not still be celebrating Columbus Day in 2021. It should be Indigenous Peoples Day. Nationwide.
— Erie Siobhan (@ErieNotEerie) October 7, 2021

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me on Monday waiting for anyone in my life to say “Columbus Day” instead of “Indigenous People’s Day” pic.twitter.com/G2dpurQcKk
— Emily they/she (@emilymotti) October 8, 2021

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You can call it all you want, but it is still Columbus Day and always will be
— Scott Knaack (@Scott_Knaack4) October 9, 2021

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