Columbus Day is more than just a day off from work or school; it’s a reflection of America’s complex history and its relationship with exploration and indigenous cultures. As we dive deeper into the origins and evolution of this holiday, it’s clear that Columbus Day carries with it a range of interpretations and emotions. Here are five interesting aspects about Columbus Day that might surprise you:
1. Seattle’s Acknowledgment of Native Americans: In 2014, Seattle made the decision to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day. This change was a significant acknowledgment of the Native American communities who had thrived in the Americas long before Columbus’ famed voyage.
2. Columbus Day’s Origins in Diversity Celebration: The declaration of Columbus Day by President Benjamin Harrison served a dual purpose. It was not only a recognition of Columbus’s journey but was also introduced in 1892 as a response to the lynching of 11 Italian-Americans in New Orleans. The holiday aimed to diminish prevailing anti-Italian sentiments and celebrate the rich diversity of America.
3. Limited Observance Across State: Contrary to popular belief, Columbus Day isn’t observed nationwide. States like California, Nevada, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico, Alaska and South Dakota have chosen not to recognize it as a public holiday.
4. South Dakota’s Unique Approach: South Dakota stands alone in its approach to Columbus Day. Rather than simply not observing the day, the state has replaced it entirely with Native American Day, honoring the indigenous cultures and their significant contribution to the nation’s history.
5. Vikings’ Pioneering Voyage: Long before Columbus set foot in the Americas, the Vikings had already marked their presence. These early European explorers are believed to have landed in what is now Newfoundland in Canada, a good 500 years ahead of Columbus’s expedition.