COLUMBUS, OH (WCMH) — In 2018, the largest city named for Christopher Columbus quietly stepped away from observing the divisive holiday. Instead, city offices in Columbus, Ohio, now close on Veteran’s Day.
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The city of Columbus did not go as far as other cities, however, including Ohio’s third-largest, Cincinnati, by completely renaming the day Indigenous Peoples Day.
The state’s flagship university Ohio State, located in Columbus, recognizes the day as both. Daniel Rivers, PhD., is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation and director of the American Indian Studies program at OSU.
“I think just having those conversations and engaging with Native history is a great development and especially here on campus,” Rivers stated. “I feel like one of the best things that the university offers to our society is a place to have open, engaged conversations about difficult issues and moving forward. If these developments over re-naming Columbus day allows us that, that’s a great thing.”
Rivers said the push to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day started with the Red Power movement and development of Native American activism to celebrate Native history in the 1960s and 1970s.
More than 20 years later, South Dakota was the first to replace the second Monday of October with Indigenous Peoples Day. The move coincided closely with the 500 year anniversary of Columbus sailing to America on behalf of Spain.
“[The renaming of Columbus Day] asks us to question what the narrative of Columbus’ ‘discovery’ entails, what that does, what it erases, and I think when we rethink the holiday to instead be a celebration and an examination of the disenfranchised Native peoples historically since European colonization, but also, a celebration of Native cultures and all its diversity,” Rivers explained.
To Italian-Americans who are insulted by the renaming because Christopher Columbus was of Italian descent, Rivers said he hopes to have more conversation with them.
“I would say to Italian-American communities who want to continue to be invested in the history of Columbus … but also the importance of Italy as one of the most important cultures in the world… that I look forward to a time when all of our histories are engaged in a complex dialog where we think about different cultures and different investments, and how they met here in the new world, because one of the stories about colonization is of a complex meeting of cultures from around the world, the globe becoming smaller in a lot of ways,” Rivers said.