Charlottesville city council votes to observe Indigenous Peoples Day

Christopher Columbus on Santa Maria in 1492, Photo Date: 12/31/1854
Christopher Columbus on Santa Maria in 1492, Photo Date: 12/31/1854(WHSV)
Published: Sep. 21, 2017 at 11:36 AM EDT
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A city council in Virginia has voted to commemorate Indigenous Peoples Day on the same day that Columbus Day has been traditionally observed.

the Charlottesville City Council voted Monday to mark the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day. That date has traditionally been celebrated as Columbus Day, though the city does not currently observe the holiday.

When you look around at some of the statues in Charlottesville, it is clear that the role of Native Americans is downplayed in American history, at least according to Karenne Wood from the Virginia Foundation of the Humanities.

Wood says holidays like Columbus Day actually marginalize the role Native Americans played in our history, and overlook some of the things colonists did to indigenous populations.

She says Indigenous Peoples' Day is a way to confront that tricky history, even if it makes us a little uncomfortable to talk about it.

“I'd really like us to acknowledge that native people are part of the present as well as the past and to recognize that our history is problematic,” said Wood about the holiday. “It becomes more interesting when we look for the truth and when we are not afraid to confront what has happened in the past.”

The resolution says Indigenous Peoples Day shall be used to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous people on this land and to celebrate the thriving culture and value that Indigenous nations add to Charlottesville.

Wood says the University of Virginia Native American Student Union is lobbying state lawmakers to officially change the holiday.