Brown University Renames Christopher Columbus Day As Indigenous People's Day

"Columbus Day" represents a different reality for many people.

The second Monday of October, christened Columbus Day in honor of the man who "discovered" America, has long been a controversial holiday. For many Native Americans, Columbus Day is an offensive celebration of a man whom some see as responsible for the genocide of their peoples. On Thursday, following the footsteps of a growing number of cities and institutions across the nation, Brown University renamed Columbus Day as Indigenous People's Day to honor the history and culture of Native Americans. 

The Ivy League school first changed the Columbus Day holiday to Fall Weekend in 2009, but after increased calls for taking it a step farther, Brown's faculty voted to do so. According to a statement, renaming the holiday allows the university to recognize "the contributions of Indigenous People/Native Americans to our community and our culture and foster a more inclusive community."

Those who advocated for the change highlighted three points that an Indigenous People's Day would help achieve: it would increase visibility and recognition of Native Americans at the school, celebrate contributions from Native communities and cultures, and acknowledge the United States's history of displacing and oppressing its indigenous people.

The push for Indigenous People's Day to replace Columbus Day has had increasingly successful results, with major cities like Minneapolis and Seattle — including other smaller ones — heeding the calls.

Andrew Burton / Getty Images.
Andrew Burton / Getty Images.

Native Americans are some of the most disadvantaged groups in the country. They are disproportionately affected by mass incarceration and are actively being stripped of their land and their resources. They have inadequate health care, housing, and education, in addition to prevalent violence against women and children, and a growing epidemic of youth suicide. This all on top of the wide-scale appropriation of their cultures and the use of their figures as racist sport mascots.

Celebrating an Indigenous People's Day does not solve these issues, but it is a step toward recognizing their plight and respecting their culture.

Cover image via Andrew Burton / Getty Images