On Columbus Day, town of Carrboro celebrates alternate holiday

While much of the country is commemorating Columbus Day on October 9, the town of Carrboro has taken a stance against the national holiday. Carrboro adopted the alternative holiday, “Indigenous People’s Day,” in 2015. Indigenous People’s Day was first celebrated on October 10, 2016. Lydia Lavelle was mayor at the time.

The concept of Indigenous People’s day stems partly from the idea that Columbus did not discover America the way some perceive. He and his crew landed in modern day Haiti and the Dominican Republic; while his journey contributed to the subsequent colonization of North and South America, Columbus never actually set foot on either continent.

Many history curriculums and textbooks paint Columbus as a hero who discovered the Americas. However, this portrayal of discovery ignores any dark side of Columbus’s expedition as well as the actions of the Indigenous People of North America, who crossed the land bridge from Eurasia to what is now Canada 15,000 years ago and populated the Americas. In recent years, this concept has been especially debated because of the way the discovery of America is portrayed in schools.

Annie Williams, a social studies teacher at CHS, discussed the complicated history that established Columbus Day. “In the late 20th century [the Italians] wanted to create a holiday for their ethnic group…they picked Christopher Columbus because he was Italian,” said Williams.

The holiday was intended to acknowledge the importance of Italian immigrants to the United States; in years prior, Italians faced a substantial amount of persecution and felt underrepresented.  

As time has passed and the meaning of Columbus Day has evolved, communities like Carrboro are establishing new traditions. Indigenous People’s Day is a concept communities across the country are slowly adopting. The effort to diversify holidays, on both a local and national level, is increasing, and Carrboro was one of the first towns to do so.