Columbus Day is likely to be a thing of the past in Vermont in the near future. The Vermont Legislature passed a bill on Wednesday that would permanently recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Gov. Phil Scott said he’ll likely sign it into law. “I see no reason that I would not sign it,” Scott told the Burlington Free Press, “but we’re reviewing the bill as we speak.”
Vermont actually hasn’t celebrated Columbus Day for a few years. Former Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a gubernatorial proclamation in 2016 recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day and that continued even after the current Republican governor took office. But the measure now awaiting the governor’s signature would do away with Columbus Day altogether, turning Vermont into the third state to legally rename the holiday after New Mexico and South Dakota. Alaska is in a special circumstance because it never actually recognized Columbus Day as a holiday but did declare Indigenous Peoples’ Day a state holiday in 2017.
Many cities around the country have also moved to rename the Columbus Day holiday as a way of honoring indigenous people and recognizing that the history many learned in school ignored the brutality of colonization. “Things that are symbolic can carry very far,” Rich Holschuh, a member of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs, told the Burlington Free Press. “The degree of disinformation and lack of understanding around the situation of native people in Vermont, as a microcosm of the national situation, is totally exemplified in the way that Columbus has been celebrated and the native people ignored.”
Maine is likely to follow suit and be the next state to do away with Columbus Day after Maine’s Senate gave the final approval to a bill that would rename the holiday on Thursday. Gov. Janet Mills, whose administration has previously expressed support for the measure, would now need to sign the bill to turn it into law. Oami Amarasingham, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine celebrated the decision by state lawmakers. “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,” Amarasingham, said.
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