As Christopher Columbus Day becomes an increasingly criticized federal holiday, some cities are celebrating Native Americans instead. The cities of Phoenix and Denver will celebrate their first official Indigenous People’s Day on Monday. The cities are part of a growing movement to acknowledge Indigenous People’s Day, in recognition of the suffering Native American people endured during American colonization.
Phoenix City Council members voted 9-0 Wednesday to establish the day as an annual city commemoration event. The move neither creates an official city holiday nor does it replace Columbus Day, which Phoenix doesn’t observe as a city holiday. Phoenix is now the largest U.S. city to recognize Indigenous People’s Day as an annual event. Other cities that observe it include Minneapolis, Seattle, Denver, Portland and San Antonio.
In Vermont, Gov. Peter Shumlin proclaimed Monday Indigenous People’s Day in the state, replacing what had been observed in previous years as Columbus Day. In a proclamation signed Oct. 6, Shumlin said he encouraged Vermonters to “recognize the sacrifice and contributions of the First Peoples of this land” on what has nationally been a day recognizing the arrival of explorer Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492. While many are in support of recognizing Native Americans on Columbus Day, not everyone has jumped at the chance to change the federal holiday’s name.
Cincinnati’s city council rejected a proclamation last week that would have recognized Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day. Likewise, Oklahoma City leaders shot down a proposal to recognize Indigenous People’s Day for the second time in a row. The idea for Indigenous People’s Day was first proposed in 1977 by a delegation of Native Nations to the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas, according to the Vermont proclamation.
At least nine cities celebrated Indigenous People’s Day for the first time last year.