COLUMBUS DAY became controversial in the early 1800s when anti-immigrant groups opposed the holiday because of its association with Catholicism.
However, a century later, it became recognized as a federal holiday commemorating Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the New World.
What is the history of Columbus Day?
In 1492, Christopher Columbus set off with three ships, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, in search of Asia.
The Italian-born sailor landed first in the Bahamas, making him the first European to step foot on American soil.
On the return from his first trip, he brought back several natives, or indigenous people, to Spain, securing their enslavement.
Although slavery already existed, historians believe he created the beginning of a global enterprise that lasted approximately 400 years.
Columbus found himself in the Americas on his third trip from Spain.
He believed he had landed in Asia, but eventually realized he had discovered another continent entirely.
It wasn’t until the 300-year anniversary of Columbus’s voyage to the Americas that New York’s Columbian Order held the first celebration.
The people celebrated Columbus’s faith and his nationality by holding Catholic ceremonies and Italian parades.
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Columbus Day became more well-known in 1892 when then-President Benjamin Harrison, issued a proclamation that said, “On [the anniversary] let the people, so far as possible, cease from toil and devote themselves to such exercises as may best express honor to the discoverer and their appreciation of the great achievements of the four completed centuries of American life.”
Colorado was the first state to make Columbus Day a holiday in 1901, and New York followed shortly after, naming it a holiday in 1909.
But it wasn’t until 1937 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Columbus Day a national holiday every year and was celebrated on October 12.
The date was later changed in 1971 to the second Monday of October.
What is the history of Indigenous People’s Day?
Indigenous People’s Day was first observed in Berkley, California in 1992, well before it was officially celebrated in the rest of the US in 2014.
When the colonists immigrated to the Americas, they brought diseases including smallpox and influenza that destroyed entire indigenous populations.
The natives were lured into a false sense of security when the colonists approached them in an attempt at biological warfare with blankets and linens that had been infected with smallpox.
Historians aren’t sure if the attempt worked, but the bloodshed that followed could not be ignored.
How did Indigenous People’s Day become a holiday?
After Indigenous People’s Day was first celebrated in Berkley, California, educators and historians believed it was essential to educate Americans on the loss of life.
They believed Americans should be educated on the history of people who settled in the Americas long before Columbus made his 15th-century expedition.
Indigenous People’s Day was officially recognized on a national level in 2014, with many states acknowledging it as a holiday over Columbus Day.
On October 8, 2021, President Joe Biden became the first commander-in-chief to formally recognize Indigenous People’s Day by issuing a proclamation celebrating the upcoming holiday.
The proclamation said: “On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, our Nation celebrates the invaluable contributions and resilience of Indigenous peoples, recognizes their inherent sovereignty, and commits to honoring the Federal Government’s trust and treaty obligations to Tribal Nations.”
It concluded: “On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we honor America’s first inhabitants and the Tribal Nations that continue to thrive today.”