Columbus Day

Advocates Push to Change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day

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Columbus Day was declared a national holiday in 1934, but today advocates are calling for the name and way it’s celebrated to be changed.

“I think it’s a great thing that people are really advocating for changing the focus of this day of celebration,” said Reverend Houston R. Cypress, who is a Native American. 

He grew up in the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida community, and believes in changing the holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

Cypress said the change will encourage more focusing on Native American culture and honor them.

“Some people have said that it’s about changing history, but what about the indigenous people’s history? What do you know about that? What do you know about the contributions of great indigenous leaders?" Cypress said. "I think that points to to the lack of substantial education in the state and across the nation."

Across the country, statues of Christopher Columbus have been vandalized during protests calling for change to social justice issues, including in Miami. 

“When we talk about the truth to our history, we also are keen to highlight the fact we have suffered official atrocities all throughout the centuries,” Cypress said. 

Cypress told NBC 6 this is not about disrespecting white Americans. Instead, it’s to uplift Native Americans, as his family has done for generations. 

“I have my own history,” he said. “I have my own language. I have my own ways of connecting to the land. I have my own spiritual practices that I should honor and so I think that my family and my ancestors have tried so hard to keep these things vibrant.”

Fourteen states along with Washington, D.C., either officially celebrate or observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Alabama and Oklahoma celebrate both holidays. 

“We are seeing this wave of change happening already and I’m really proud to see our friends and family in African American or Black communities standing up for themselves and their rights because as they do that, it open the doors for other people, other communities to do the same,” Cypress said. 

He said last month he celebrated American Indian Day in Florida, but hopes a conversation about the celebration would happen on a national level. 

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