MONTPELIER, Vt. - The ongoing effort atcontinued this year, as an entire state took up the mantle of recognizing Native Americans with a holiday for the first time.
Vermont’s governor issued a proclamation Monday in honor of the “sacrifice and contributions of the First Peoples of this land,” including the Abenaki, their ancestors and allies.
Gov. Peter Shumlin says in the executive proclamation a growing number of cities and towns across the country recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
He says the day is an opportunity to celebrate “indigenous heritage and resiliency.”
Columbus Day traditionally recognizes Christopher Columbus’s 1492 arrival in the Americas.
The state Commission on Native American Affairs says the first British settlement in the state was at Fort Dummer in Brattleboro in 1724.
Shumlin’s proclamation only applies to this year. A spokesman tells WPTZ-TV it could be issued yearly by the next governor.
In addition to the state of Vermont, Phoenix, Arizona declared it would recognize Native Americans with its first Indigenous Peoples’ Day this year, reports The Arizona Republic.
“The city of Phoenix is built on what was the Hohokam civilization,” advocate Jeff Malkoon told city council members while lobbying for the change. “We just think this is a significant statement for a city like Phoenix, being such a center point in the Southwest.”
In the last few years, several cities across the country -- from Minneapolis to Seattle to Albuquerque -- declared a change in the focus of the early October holiday.
Proponents say the federal holiday honoring Christopher Columbus - and the parades and pageantry accompanying it - overlook a painful history of colonialism, enslavement, discrimination and land grabs that followed the Italian explorer’s 1492 arrival in the Americas. The indigenous holiday takes into account the history and contributions of Native Americans for a more accurate historical record, activists have argued.
Columbus Day supporters say the holiday celebrates centuries of cultural exchange between America and Europe, commemorates an iconic explorer and honors Italian-Americans, a group that has endured its own share of discrimination.