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Vermont officially replaces Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day


It is the sixth state to have such a law in place

1892 lithograph/Getty Images

Vermont has passed a law that officially scraps Columbus Day in favor of an Indigenous Peoples Day on the same date. Maine passed a similar bill in March.

Here's what we know

Columbus Day has long been a target of activists due to its namesake's poor treatment of Native American people, particularly during his later exploratory voyages. These activists typically want to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, rather than put that new holiday on a separate day of its own.

Even before this bill was passed, Vermont had been unofficially celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday of October instead of Columbus Day.

"Vermont was founded and built upon lands whose original inhabitants were the Abenaki people and honors them and their ancestors," the bill reads. "The establishment of this holiday will aid in the cultural development of Vermont's recognized tribes, while enabling all indigenous peoples in Vermont and elsewhere to move forward and formulate positive outcomes, from the history of colonization."

New Mexico, Alaska, Minnesota, and Oregon already have similar laws in place, as do Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, and several other cities. The first ever celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day occurred in 1992 in Berkeley, California.

Why do we even have a Columbus Day?

Italian-American groups, including the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), have staunchly opposed getting rid of the holiday which initially was founded to celebrate Italian immigrants in America in a similar way to how St. Patrick's Day (in addition to being a day to honor St. Patrick himself) celebrates the Irish.

According to a news release from NIAF "[w]hen Columbus Day was founded in 1937, the federal holiday provided a sense of dignity and self worth in light of the hostility and discrimination many Italian immigrants, Italians Americans, and Catholics (more broadly) faced."

One of the early backers of the holiday, Italian immigrant Siro Mangini, pushed the idea of Columbus as the face of the holiday in part because he believed that the explorer would be the "one Italian [that] Americans would not throw rocks at."

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