Every year Columbus Day, usually celebrated on the second Monday of October, sparks a series of debates questioning whether Christopher Columbus (the Italian explorer who our grade school teachers all claimed discovered America) is even worth celebrating at all. So it comes as no surprise that in 2016, multiple cities and states across the country have finally taken the initiative to rename the holiday. Brown University happens to be the latest institution to join in.
“Today a majority of faculty present at the monthly faculty meeting voted to support this proposal by amending the Faculty Rules and Regulations, designating the second Monday of October as Indigenous People’s Day,” said Thomas Roberts, professor of biology and evolutionary biology, in a statement.
The university had been referring to the holiday as Fall Weekend since 2009, when a student group, Native Americans at Brown (NAB), called for the switch. This past October, the same group called for another name change. NAB argued that renaming the holiday “would recognize the contributions of Indigenous People/Native Americans to our community and our culture and foster a more inclusive community,” according to Brown’s website.
“We are formally requesting that the university vote to make this change to promote the on-campus visibility of the resistance and resilience of Native peoples and Native students on Brown’s campus against the continued attempts at disempowerment, disenfranchisement, erasuere, and genocide that began with the arrival of Christoper Columbus,” the petition reads. “Although the current name of the holiday, ‘Fall Weekend,’ halts the active celebration of Columbus’ torture and genocide and the dawn of the transatlantic slave trade, this is the bare minimum that Brown University can do.”
While voting on the name change, university faculty had a meeting to discuss the goals of NAB in regards to the change, which included increasing the visibility of Native American students on campus as well as recongnizing and celebrating the accomplishments of Native Americans.
“In discussions prior to the vote, faculty expressed their support for the name change as an opportunity to show support for Native Americans on our campus and beyond, and to celebrate Native Amerian culture and history,” Roberts said.
The changes will be effective next fall.