Warwick, RI — Monday, Oct. 14, marks the annual commemoration of Columbus Day, a national holiday honoring the explorer Christopher Columbus, who landed on an island in the Bahamas in 1492.
While history has shown that Columbus was most likely not the first person to land on American soil, he was the most famous European in the Renaissance Era to make the journey east and make landfall. [It’s probably instructive to note that Latin American countries call it “Day of the Race,” which may be a reference to the competition among European nations to see which would reach the New World first.]
In recent years, the holiday has been replaced with Indigenous Peoples Day, a switch that was born in 1977, at a U.N. conference in Geneva, Switzerland, on discrimination against indigenous populations in the Americas, according to the Unitarian Universalist Association. South Dakota chose Native American Day in place of Columbus Day in 1990, and Hawaii has long celebrated Discoverers Day in its place. Alaska, Minnesota, and Vermont also observe Indigenous Peoples Day.
A number of cities have taken the initiative to abandon the day as a celebration of Columbus. Last year, Columbus, OH itself discarded its ties with Columbus Day, cancelling its annual observance of the holiday. Tellingly, Google’s icon doodle does not link to a frank history of Columbus’s exploratory deeds, but rather to a page celebrating the scientific contributions of Belgian physicist and mathematician Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau. Plateau was one of the first people to demonstrate the illusion of a moving image using counter rotating disks with repeating drawn images moving in small increments.
Columbus Day endures in Rhode Island.