CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Columbus Day celebrations in the United States — meant to honor the legacy of the man credited with discovering the New World — are almost as old as the nation itself.
However, since the 1990s, a growing number of states have begun replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day — a holiday meant to honor the culture and history of Native Americans.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day has grown in popularity, either replacing or being celebrated along with Columbus Day in towns, cities, states and schools across the nation, according to the History Channel.
According to the History Channel, as of 2021, the holiday is observed or honored by states including Virginia, Maine, New Mexico, Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan and Minnesota. In addition, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and South Dakota celebrate Native Americans’ Day. Hawaii celebrates Discoverers’ Day, and Alabama celebrates American Indian Heritage Day.
The earliest known Columbus Day celebration took place on Oct. 12, 1792, on the 300th anniversary of his landing.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt made Columbus Day a federal holiday in 1937.
However, Columbus Day has long been a controversial holiday. Activists have argued that holidays, statues and other memorials to Columbus “sanitize his actions — which include the enslavement of Native Americans — while giving him credit for “discovering” a place where people already lived,” according to the History Channel.
President Joe Biden on Friday issued the first-ever presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, lending the most significant boost yet to efforts to refocus the federal holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus toward an appreciation of Native peoples.
The day will be observed on Oct. 11, along with Columbus Day, which is established by Congress.
“For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures,” Biden wrote in the Indigenous Peoples’ Day proclamation. “Today, we recognize Indigenous peoples’ resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact that they have made on every aspect of American society.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.