Beginning in 1937, many calendars began designating October 9th as "Columbus Day." However, over the past several years - especially since the adoption of the historic UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 10 years ago - a growing number of places in the USA have done away with the “Columbus” part and renamed the day “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”. These include the states of Alaska, and Vermont and the cities of Seattle, Albuquerque, San Francisco, Denver, Bangor CityMaine and, most recently, Los Angeles and Cambridge.
The academic community at Harvard was informed this month that the Cambridge City Council had voted unanimously to change Christopher Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day and that the Faculty of Arts and Sciences had updated the Calendar to read "University Holiday: Columbus Day (Federal) and Indigenous Peoples' Day (City of Cambridge)." Brown University established Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2016 as an officially recognized holiday at Brown University, becoming the first Ivy League University to change the name of Fall Weekend/Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
This discussion has resonance within our own community at Columbia. Last year, we were proud that our University was able to place a plaque recognizing that the campus is built on traditional Lenape territory. And, for a number of years now, the Native American Council and supporting students and faculty have been advocating for Columbia to mark the day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
We live in times when, despite growing challenges to human rights, the most important thing to retain is the conviction that commitment, determination, and solidarity matter and that through our struggles, we can create decolonized spaces and spaces of justice, here, where we live.