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Indigenous People's Day will be celebrated on the second Monday of October. Photo: Inquirer.
Indigenous People's Day will be celebrated on the second Monday of October. Photo: David Maialetti/ Philadelphia Inquirer

Columbus Day to be changed to Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Philadelphia

The long-overdue change comes as another part of the city’s six-month “Pathways to Reform, Transformation, and Reconciliation” plan.

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For centuries Americans have been taught that Christopher Columbus was the founder of America. However, long before he got here, the land was long-claimed by native people that treated it with respect and devotion.

After generations, the narrative has slowly begun to change.

On Jan. 27, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed an executive order stating that Philadelphia would change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day in the city.

The decision comes a year after Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order making Juneteenth, the celebration of the emancipation of slavery, a statewide holiday in Pennsylvania.

These transitions are a part of a six-month plan called Pathways to Reform, Transformation, and Reconciliation, which the mayor established in June, during the civil unrest in Philadelphia following the police murder of George Floyd that sparked national public outrage.

Floyd died after an officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.

The subsequent outrage around his death has also led to the toppling of many statues that represented years of racism and colonialism.

Many other changes have also been put in place in Philadelphia, such as implicit bias training, police budget cuts, and increased economic opportunities for African American and Hispanic communities in the city.

The holiday changes will be in effect at least until the end of Jim Kenney’s mayoral term.

“As we continue to move forward, facing these issues honestly and head-on will be critical to making real change,” Kenney said on the city’s website. “The brave voices calling for an end to systemic racism in our city must continue to be heard and their concerns addressed. I am excited about the progress we’ve made, and for the enduring path towards reconciliation.

While many other issues are still in talks, the mayor also expressed delight at the replacement of the controversial holiday.

“While changes to City holidays may seem largely symbolic, we recognize that symbols carry power,” he wrote.

Though many Italian-Americans believe that Columbus represents Italian pride, Columbus is also known for the mistreatment and murder of thousands of indigenous people.

“Obviously, individuals are free to continue celebrating whatever holidays they choose — this executive order is specific to the list of city holidays which apply to the city government workforce and City operations,” Lauren Cox, Mayor Kenney’s Deputy Communications Director, told NBC10.

Six months ago, protestors and demonstrators rallied in South Philly to protect the Columbus statue that was located in the Marconi Plaza.

Many residents carried guns and spewed offensive statements in regards to protecting the statue.

Since then, city officials have covered the statue and there are talks of removing it entirely.

Other states and cities such as Arizona, Michigan, and South Dakota have already recognized the change to replacing Columbus Day, with Indigenous People’s Day over the span of 40 years.

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