Columbus Day Is Out, Indigenous Peoples Day Is In

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to rename the holiday in honor of Native Americans.

San Francisco joined a nationwide movement to honor Native Americans in lieu of the explorer whose arrival brought on many of their deaths.

The Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 on Tuesday afternoon to bump out Columbus Day on the second Monday of October and edge in Indigenous Peoples Day, the San Franciso Examiner reports. It took after the San Francisco Unified School District — which renamed the holiday one year ago — in applying the new name to all official city documents and calendars. 

Berkeley was the first city in the country to take the leap in 1992 and a growing number of schools, cities, and universities have followed suit. Disease and conflict claimed millions of Native American lives after Christopher Columbus set foot in North America, according to the History Channel.

“It’s incredibly important and quite frankly overdue,” said Supervisor Malia Cohen — who introduced the legislation — at a hearing earlier this month.

Some Italian-Americans have taken issue with the legislation for eradicating Columbus Day altogether rather than picking a different day to honor indigenous people. Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who represents North Beach, voted against the move after trying to postpone the vote, the Examiner also reports. 

But replacing the day is seen by some as a way to address the history of colonization spurred by Columbus. A 2007 city report from the Human Rights Commission called the original holiday “an insulting gesture” and suggested that San Francisco find a way to celebrate Italian-Americans in a way that doesn’t honor Columbus. 

The report, titled  “Discrimination by Omission: Issues of Concern for Native Americans in San Francisco,” also suggested changing the names of Columbus Avenue and Junipero Serra Boulevard — named after the priest who kick-started the Spanish missions in California that forced Native Americans to erase their culture.

“For millions, 1492 marked the beginning of the implementation of policies designed to systematically exterminate Native American people and their cultures,” reads the 2007 report.

Each year, Alcatraz Island hosts the Indigenous Peoples Day Sunrise Gathering to honor ancestors and future generations while commemorating Native American resistance.

Local Italian-Americans itching to celebrate their heritage can still do so at the North Beach Festival in June, Festa Coloniale Italiana in August and the Italian Heritage Parade in October. Saints Peter and Paul School’s Columbus Day Bazaar in October is to be determined. 

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