Why the second Monday in October is a source of controversy

Some states celebrate Columbus Day, others celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, while many states don’t observe a holiday at all

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File) (Patrick Semansky, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Usually the second Monday of October is a dedicated day of remembrance and a holiday for some of the country.

However, the focal point of the remembrance that is taking place is different depending on what state you live in, according to Pew Research Center.

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For 16 states and American Samoa, Columbus Day is an official holiday that’s observed. In Maine, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington, D.C., there is a holiday, but it’s known as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. In South Dakota, a holiday is observed, but it’s known as Native Americans’ Day.

More than half of the states — 26 to be exact — don’t observe a holiday at all on the second Monday of October.

So, how did it become so inconsistent as to what is celebrated across the country, if a holiday is observed at all?

Here’s a little background.

Why Columbus Day was created

Christopher Columbus was an Italian who never set foot in the new world (he made it to the Bahamas), but the seeds of him having a holiday named after him were sown after the lynching of 11 Italian immigrants in New Orleans in 1891, according to NPR.

Italian immigrants started moving to the United States in bigger numbers around the 1820s.

Following the lynchings, President Benjamin Harrison created Columbus Day as not only a way to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ journey in 1492, but also to highlight the sacrifice and positive contributions of Italian-Americans throughout the country.

Colorado became the first state to officially observe Columbus Day in 1906. Of note, Colorado in 2020 replaced Columbus Day with a new holiday on the first Monday of October honoring Frances Xavier Cabrini, an Italian immigrant and Catholic nun who helped serve immigrants with the founding of schools, hospitals and orphanages.

Columbus Day was first observed as a federal holiday in 1937 before being moved from Oct. 12 to the second Monday of October in 1971.

Why there became backlash against Columbus Day

After further research of Columbus’ life in recent decades and alleged cruel behavior toward native people, many states have backtracked on celebrating Columbus Day.

California and Delaware were two states that dropped the holiday entirely in 2009, and even Columbus, Ohio, renamed the holiday Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2020.

States such as Nebraska and Rhode Island now celebrate the second Monday of October as both Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Texas in 2021 declared the second week of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Week.

Bottom line

The second Monday of October has arguably become the most divisive and controversial day of holiday observations — or non-observations — during the year.

Last year, President Joe Biden declared proclamations for both Columbus Day and Indigenous People’s Day.

Odds are good that will be the case again today to celebrate the legacies of both Italian-Americans and Indigenous Peoples.


About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.