Maine is on the verge of replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day

5 years ago

A bill to officially change the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day in Maine received final approval from the Senate on Thursday, paving the way for it to become law.

The bill from Rep. Ben Collings, D-Portland, will change the name of the holiday that dates back to the 1930s and falls on the second Monday in October. While Indigenous Peoples Day will be observed in Maine, the name of the federal holiday will remain Columbus Day.

Maine will become the eighth state to make the change, spurred by Democratic lawmakers’ desire to disassociate the state from historic gestures of cultural assimilation and violence against the country’s early Native American inhabitants, perpetuated by Italian explorer Christopher Columbus and other early European settlers.

“I greatly respect the history of the Italian-Americans and their contribution, however, I think we can honor their presence here without this day, which really isn’t fitting,” Collings said in February.

Former Penobscot Nation Chief Barry Dana, who supports the holiday name change, said, “Maine has not addressed its relationship with Maine’s first people. This would be a way of doing that.”

After the Senate vote Thursday, Oami Amarasingham, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said, “It’s time to stop celebrating a man whose arrival brought death, disease and slavery to hundreds of thousands, and start honoring the people who lived here long before.”

The bill will now be sent to Gov. Janet Mills to be signed into law. Her administration previously indicated support for the change.

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