DC Council approves emergency legislation to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples' Day in the District

The District will celebrate "Indigenous Peoples' Day" next Monday instead of Columbus Day after the D.C. Council approved emergency legislation to rename the federal holiday in an effort to "honor Indigenous People and their rich history and cultural contributions."

In a statement released Monday, DC Councilmember At-Large David Grosso says for five years a majority of the Council supported the change that "would honor our native populations" but it had been stalled by Chairman Phil Mendelson "without any public input or hearing." 

During a Council meeting on Tuesday, Grosso, along with councilmembers Charles Allen, Anita Bonds, Mary Cheh, Brianne Nadeau, Trayon White, and Robert White, forced a vote, which was approved by all but Mendelson and councilmember Jack Evans, who both voted "present." 

CurbedDC reports Evans said that some of his Italian-American constituents had raised concerns about changing the name. 

The emergency legislation will be put into immediate action for 90 days once signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser. A permanent version of the bill is currently pending. 

Read Grosso's statement in full below: 

“For at least five years now legislation supported by a majority of the Council that would honor our native populations and rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day has been stalled by Chairman Mendelson without any public input or hearing.

Tomorrow, along with Councilmembers Allen, Bonds, Cheh, Nadeau, Trayon White, and Robert White, I will put forth legislation that will force a vote of the full Council to finally do the right thing by ending the celebration of the misleading narrative of Christopher Columbus on the second Monday in October.

This move is not controversial. Maine, New Mexico, Vermont, North Carolina, Alaska, South Dakota, Oregon, and at least 130 cities and towns have now renamed the holiday, according to the New York Times.

This is not just a movement in other areas of the country—I feel it right here in the District of Columbia every single day. I get letters from students requesting the name change; I know many schools use the holiday to honor Indigenous People instead of Christopher Columbus; and frankly, it’s an accident of history that Columbus is honored in this way.

Columbus Day was officially designated as a federal holiday in 1937 despite the fact that Columbus did not discover North America, despite the fact that millions of people were already living in North America upon his arrival in the Americas, and despite the fact that Columbus never set foot on the shores of the current United States.

Columbus enslaved, colonized, mutilated, and massacred thousands of Indigenous People in the Americas.

We cannot continue to allow this history to be celebrated as a holiday in the District of Columbia. The government of the District of Columbia is clear that we are a government that values equality, diversity, and inclusion. Continuing to observe a holiday built on the celebration of oppression runs counter to those values.

Already a majority of the Council has indicated their support to re-designate the second Monday in October through previous bills. It is my hope that we can come together tomorrow and honor Indigenous People and their rich history and cultural contributions with a “yes” vote ahead of October 14.”

Click here to watch Tuesday's Council meeting