If you’re one of the millions of parents looking forward to your kids being off from school on Columbus Day, you may soon find yourself referring to it as Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead.
A growing number of cities and states in the United States are passing resolutions turning what we’ve long known as Columbus Day into Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a day for “…honoring the ancestors,” said council member Omar Narvaez of District 6 in Dallas, one of the most recent cities to pass the measure, to his local TV station. The change is designed to honor Native Americans, who were in the U.S. long before Christopher Columbus, as well as all indigenous peoples everywhere.
Christopher Columbus was not the first American
Some cities like Washington D.C. and Dallas include language in their resolutions that notes how Christopher Columbus colonized and even enslaved some of the indigenous people he encountered when he first came to America, painting a very different picture than what has long been taught in many schools. Some think including this information is political correctness on steroids, but others — even some students — think it’s about righting a wrong.
While studying the history of early Americans, “…we found out that it wasn’t Columbus. It was our ancestors,” Wisconsin seventh-grader Annabelle Jaworski told her local TV station. She was one of several students who campaigned for several years to help the measure pass in her state.
The holiday is celebrated each year on the second Monday of October. States that have already made the switch include Alaska, Florida, Hawaii (where it’s called Discoverers’ Day), Maine, New Mexico, South Dakota (where it’s referred to as Native American Day), and Vermont.
What to tell your kids if they ask about Columbus Day
Before you go calling it Indigenous Peoples’ Day forever, it’s important to note that for any of these resolutions to become permanent, Congress must approve the measure at the national level. Otherwise your kids will be back to celebrating Columbus Day again next year.
If you think your child may hear about some of this at school or on the playground and have questions, consider talking to them about it to avoid confusion. You may even want to indulge in a little bit of research online together and use it as a teaching moment. Websites such as educationpossible.com (and a good old-fashioned Google search) can yield many age-appropriate activities about U.S. history that are both fun and educational.