Two bills pending in the Vermont Senate and Vermont House of Representatives call for Columbus Day to be renamed as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the state, to recognize the historic and cultural significance of the original people who lived here.
“He wasn’t a good man,” Jennifer Morton-Dow said of Christopher Columbus.
Morton-Dow, who is a member of the Ojibwe Native American tribe, said she sees Columbus as symbolizing oppression and the loss of native lands.
“The running joke is about Columbus walking into your house and saying, ‘This is mine now, you have to go!’” Morton-Dow said. “And that’s kind of what Columbus Day feels like for a lot of us.”
In Vermont, Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, proclaimed Oct. 9 Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but that covers just this year.
Morton-Dow, who was demonstrating traditional basket-weaving at the drop-in center of Burlington’s Spectrum Youth & Family Services Monday, said she would like to see that name change become permanent.
“It’s taking a step towards acknowledging us and acknowledging that we’re still here,” the member of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs told necn.
Rep. Brian China, P-Burlington, helped introduce the House proposal.
“Columbus Day has been a national holiday for a while, so we do expect some resistance to change,” China told necn affiliate NBC 5 News. “[Vermont has] been ahead of the curve on many issues, and this is another issue where we can set an example for the rest of the country about how it’s important to recognize the truth about our past.”
A defense of Christopher Columbus was published in Monday’s USA Today.
The explorer’s descendent, Christopher Columbus XX, wrote an opinion piece suggesting it’d be an unfair simplification to heap too much blame on Columbus alone for such a complicated past.
The author also wrote in the newspaper that his ancestor deserves credit, too, because after his voyage, “For the first time in history, the world acquired a truly global perspective.”
President Trump is also sticking by Columbus. In a statement issued by the White House, the president honored Columbus as a “skilled navigator and man of faith” who connected continents.
President Trump also said, “The permanent arrival of Europeans to the Americas was a transformative event that undeniably and fundamentally changed the course of human history and set the stage for the development of our great Nation.”
Buoyed by Vermont’s support for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Jennifer Morton-Dow said she promises to keep advocating for visibility of her tribe and others, hoping the day is eventually recognized everywhere.
The idea of an Indigenous Peoples’ Day was created in 1977, Cina noted, by a delegation of native nations before the International Conference on Discrimination.
Since then, awareness of the day has grown, with an increasing number of cities and towns making the switch from Columbus Day in recent years.