One more state works to do away with a reminder of genocide.
Vermont is one signature away from abolishing Columbus Day altogether and permanently recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
The Vermont Legislature passed a bill that “will aid in the cultural development of Vermont’s recognized tribes, while enabling all indigenous peoples in Vermont and elsewhere to move forward and formulate positive outcomes, from the history of colonization.”
It will likely be signed into law by Republican Governor Phil Scott. “I see no reason that I would not sign it, but we’re reviewing the bill as we speak.”
Columbus Day became a federal holiday in 1937 to honor the Italian explorer who “discovered” the Americas on Oct. 12, 1492.
The whitewashing of history uses celebration and discovery to clean up the horrendous acts of Columbus. But for descendants, it’s an annual reminder of genocide.
“Things that are symbolic can carry very far,” Rich Holschuh, a member of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs, told the Burlington Free Press. “The degree of disinformation and lack of understanding around the situation of native people in Vermont, as a microcosm of the national situation, is totally exemplified in the way that Columbus has been celebrated and the native people ignored.”
Holschuh said that recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day “opens up an opportunity for that story to begin to change.”
Columbus was responsible for the Atlantic Slave Trade, which has impacted Black Americans to this very day, as reparations are debated among 2020 presidential candidates and the Congressional Black Caucus continues to strive for the approval of research to show the specific socio-economic impact of slavery.
He was also responsible for robbing, raping, dismembering, murdering, roasting, and completing the genocide of Natives. He also practiced family separation, and said colonizing could be financed by slavery:
“These things could be paid for in slaves taken from among these cannibals, who are so wild and well-built and with a good understanding of things that we think they will be finer than any other slaves once they are freed from their inhumanity, which they will lose as soon as they leave their own lands.”
Though some dispute his violence and defend his “discovery,” many have come to know the man celebrated in October as a racist.
Vermont’s Republican opponents proposed a separate day to honor indigenous people in February, but it didn’t pass.
Berkeley, California, replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in 1992 to honor the original inhabitants of the Caribbean islands where Columbus made landfall and ruled. In 1989, South Dakota started calling the holiday Native American Day. Alabama celebrates a combination of Columbus Day and American Indian Heritage Day, and Hawaii calls it Discovery Day.
New Mexico and South Dakota, have already legally renamed Columbus Day. Legislation in Maine is awaiting the governor’s signature. Alaska never recognized Columbus Day as a state holiday but passed Indigenous Peoples’ Day legislation in 2017.
In February, the city of Sandusky, Ohio, swapped Columbus Day for Election Day as a paid holiday for city employees so they can use the day to exercise their voting rights.
“Columbus Day was not a way for us to show that we value our diversity,” Eric Wobser, Sandusky’s city manager, said at the time.
“I know it’s controversial from many standpoints, from many people, but you know, it’s just a day, and we’ll get through it,” Vermont Governor Scott said. “And we’ve been treating it as something different over the last couple of years through resolutions.”