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In Honor Of Columbus Day, One Lawmaker Wants To Get Rid Of It Once And For All

Elaine Thompson
A sign is held aloft during an Indigenous Peoples Day march Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Seattle.

Like many states, Pennsylvania gave its lawmakers and other state employees a paid holiday today in celebration of Columbus Day. 

Since 1937, the US has celebrated Christopher Columbus’s accidental arrival in the Bahamas as the “discovery” of America.

But more recently, there’s been a push to recognize the full impact of that 1492 landing—namely, genocide and enslavement of the people who already lived in America.

At least 10 states now observe a version of Indigenous People’s Day on the second Monday of October.

Pennsylvania doesn’t. 

State Representative Chris Rabb, a Philadelphia Democrat, said he thinks it’s time for the commonwealth to say farewell to Columbus.

“Things that have been honored in the past were not necessarily our collective values,” Rabb said. “They were the values of those people in power.”

Rabb proposed adopting Indigenous People’s day last legislative session.

After it went untouched by the legislature’s GOP majority, he changed it up.  This session’s version would create a new statewide Election Day holiday in place of Columbus Day — effectively trading the day off in October for one in November, when the General Election is held each year.

“So, really feeding two birds in one hand,” Rabb said—though he noted, he’d still be fine with an Indigenous People’s Day.

Spokespeople for House and Senate Republicans didn’t comment on whether they support the effort.

Rabb says he received a lot of angry feedback the first time he proposed axing Columbus Day. He has a theory about why.

“It touches a raw nerve for people who believe that as this nation diversifies ethnically, it is the end of white domination,” he said.

He added, he doesn’t have particularly high hopes for the effort this time, but views it as symbolic.