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Vermont Replaces Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day

A Christopher Columbus statue stands in Madrid, Spain, March 7, 2016. (Paul Hanna/Reuters)

Vermont on Friday became the sixth state to eliminate Columbus Day, replacing it with Indigenous People’s Day.

Governor Phil Scott, a Republican, signed a bill designating the second Monday in October a day honoring Native Americans rather than the 15th-century Italian explorer.

“Vermont was founded and built upon lands whose original inhabitants were Abenaki people and honors them and their ancestors,” the state’s new law reads.

“I know it’s controversial from many standpoints, from many people, but you know, it’s just a day, and we’ll get through it,” Scott said last month after the state legislature passed the measure.

Vermont’s move comes on the heels of similar bills in Maine and New Mexico, whose Democratic governors signed the holiday change into law last month. Hawaii, Oregon, and South Dakota had already chosen to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day.

Some modern Native American tribes object to the celebration of Christopher Columbus, who led several expeditions to Central and South America and spearheaded the European colonization of the New World.

“Columbus is very much a part of these stories,” said Rich Holschuh, a member of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs and advocate for changing the holiday, in remarks to lawmakers at the statehouse earlier this year. “But we now know that he was not the idealistic, magnanimous, inspirational figure that we were . . . taught.”

Others said they were for Indigenous People’s Day but lamented the scrapping of Columbus Day.

“I am all for an Indigenous People’s Day, absolutely,” Karl Miller, secretary for the Italian-heritage organization Barre Mutuo, said in March. “But the casting aside [of] Columbus Day I think is a tragedy, I really do, for the American people in general.”

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