Columbus Day has been a political lightning rod for states, cities and municipalities around the US for years now. Some have decided to do something about it.
Virginia is the latest state to officially observe “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” instead, a holiday to recognize the native populations that were displaced and decimated after Christopher Columbus and other European explorers reached the continent.
Technically, Columbus Day is a federal holiday, which means it is recognized by the US government and thus brings the closure of non-essential government offices, and, usually, places like post offices and banks.
But states and local governments can choose not to observe a federal holiday. And, as is the case with a growing number of places, change the name and intent of the October holiday altogether.
As many as 130 cities across the country have ditched Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples Day – and the list grows yearly.
Maine: Observes Indigenous Peoples’ Day as of 2019
Gov. Bill Walker signed observances of the holiday in 2015 and 2016 before making the switch official in 2017.
Hawaii: Observes Discoverers’ Day in place of Columbus Day, with state law describing it as a day “in recognition of the Polynesian discoverers of the Hawaiian Islands.”
Maine: Observes Indigenous Peoples’ Day as of 2019, when Gov. Janet Mills said it was a step “in healing the divisions of the past, in fostering inclusiveness” and “in telling a fuller, deeper history.”
New Mexico: Observes Indigenous Peoples’ Day as of 2019
Oregon: Passed a law in 2021 designating the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
South Dakota: Has observed Native American Day since 1990.
Vermont: A law was passed in 2019 replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
States and DC that have observed Indigenous Peoples Day via proclamations
Iowa: Iowa governor Kim Reynolds made a proclamation in 2018 designating Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Louisiana: The Pelican State doesn’t recognize Columbus Day. Gov. John Bel Edwards declared October 14, 2019, the state’s first Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Michigan: On October 14, 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared the day to be Indigenous Peoples’ Day “to uplift our country’s indigenous roots, history, and contributions.”
Minnesota: In 2019, Gov. Tim Walz signed a proclamation declaring the second Monday in October that year as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The state is home to 11 tribal nations.
North Carolina: Gov. Roy Cooper has made yearly proclamations designating the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Virginia: In 2020, Gov. Ralph Northam declared Monday the first Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Virginia, calling it an “important step in creating an inclusive, honest Commonwealth.” The state is home to 11 native tribes.
Wisconsin: Gov. Tony Evers established Indigenous Peoples’ Day via an executive order days before the observance in 2019.
Washington, DC: The DC Council voted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day a few days before the 2019 observance.
States that celebrate both holidays
Alabama: The state celebrates both Columbus Day and American Indian Heritage Day.
Oklahoma: In 2019, the state voted to move Native American Day to the same day as Columbus Day so the two could be celebrated concurrently.