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  • Writer's pictureAntonio Gonzales

At Brown University, Columbus Day Is Now Indigenous People’s Day

Most of the United States knows the second Monday of October, a federal holiday since 1934, as Columbus Day.

Because of a national debate about whether Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer who landed on American shores, is worthy of celebration, Brown University has instead called the holiday Fall Weekend since 2009.

On Tuesday, however, the university faculty renamed the holiday once again — this time to Indigenous People’s Day.

“In discussions prior to the vote, faculty expressed their support for the name change as an opportunity to show support for Native Americans on our campus and beyond, and to celebrate Native American culture and history,” Thomas Roberts, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, said in a statement.

Several cities and states across the United States have already renamed the holiday, including Berkeley, Calif., which had its first Indigenous Peoples Day in 1992. (Although they seem to agree with one another on the sentiment, they don’t agree on the apostrophe. Brown said it would celebrate Indigenous People’s Day; Minneapolis celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day; while Seattle celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day.)

In Hawaii, the holiday is known as Discoverers’ Day, and it’s Native Americans’ Day in South Dakota. Alaska renamed it Indigenous Peoples Day in 2015, while Washington State does not recognize Columbus Day as a legal holiday.

At Brown, faculty members were moved to act after a student organization, the Native Americans at Brown, called for the change after 2015’s Fall Weekend. The new name “would recognize the contributions of Indigenous People/Native Americans to our community and our culture and foster a more inclusive community,” according to a motion presented to the faculty.

The movement to rename the holiday is based on the contention that Columbus was no hero, but instead a deliverer of genocide to Native Americans. His legacy is the subject of endless debate.

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