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Topic: holidays

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October 7, 2014 at 6:07 AM

Dueling Columbus-Indigenous Peoples holidays obscure nuanced understanding of American history

Seattle City Council’s decision to commemorate the second Monday of October as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” will be tough for some Italian-Americans and U.S. traditionalists to accept.

Aiden Eaglespeaker, 11 months (hand on sign) and her mother Jennifer (left of Aiden) listen to discussions about changing the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day at a September 2014 Seattle City Council meeting. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Aiden Eaglespeaker, 11 months (hand on sign) and her mother Jennifer (left of Aiden) listen to discussions about changing the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day at a September 2014 Seattle City Council meeting. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

The date is already set aside as the federal holiday commemorating Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’ arrival in North America in 1492.

Even before the Catholic benevolent organization Knights of Columbus successfully lobbied for the holiday in 1934, celebration of Columbus’ arrival in the New World had been ritualized for generations in the U.S. to foment patriotism.

The holiday has also come to carry huge significance for many Italian-Americans, whose immigrant ancestors were greeted with hostility during their mass migration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Comments | Topics: columbus day, holidays, indigenous peoples' day