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Goodbye, Columbus? Minneapolis may rename holiday

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The Minneapolis City Council may vote this week to rename Columbus Day. A group of activists, led by new City Council Member Alondra Cano, is urging the holiday be renamed Indigenous People's Day on all city communications, the Star Tribune reports.

Columbus Day is a federal holiday, and is celebrated each year on the second Monday in October to commemorate Christopher Columbus' arrival to the Americas on October 12, 1492.

The Columbus holiday has become a source of controversy in recent years because his explorations led to European settlement of the Americas, which in turn led to the maltreatment and death of a large percentage of native people. Critics also claim Columbus did not "discover" the New World, because indigenous peoples had been living in the Americas for thousands of years before his arrival.

The campaign to change the name of the holiday gathered steam during last fall's Minneapolis mayoral campaign. The Native American Community Development Institute hosted a forum for all the mayoral candidates, and audience members asked questions of them, according to The Circle News.

"One of them was, 'Are you willing to un-recognize Columbus Day?'" said NACDI President and CEO Jay Bad Heart Bull. "A majority of candidates said yes, and one of them was Betsy Hodges, who was elected and is now our current mayor."

Alondra Cano was also elected last fall, and she said the name change is more than just a symbol.

“From my perspective, as a Mexican woman, as a Chicana activist, I see this as a very important issue because it does matter how we name things, it does matter how we remember history. It does matter because it shapes our decisions today and what we want to do in the future," she said, according to the Circle.

If the measure passes on Friday, in reality it won't have much impact except for changing the name of the holiday on official city communications, according to the Star Tribune.

The city of Red Wing is also considering whether to change Columbus Day to "First People's Day."

The Red Wing City Council has yet to act on the resolution, though the chair of the human rights commission, Barbara von Haaren, told the Star Tribune Monday that the council plans to vote on the issue on April 28.

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