Change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Syracuse and Onondaga County.

From the January/February 2018 PNL #858

by Annie Windholz

Last October, Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON) launched a campaign to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Syracuse and Onondaga County.

We are circulating a petition (download it from; there is also an online petition). In addition, NOON is calling for public dialogues with the Italian community to address concerns about the name change. This campaign hopes to follow the success of Syracuse University students in effecting the name change at SU, as well as Syracuse city school district students who are currently advocating for the name change in the district.

Native American activists have advocated for decades for the abolition of Columbus Day, which became a US federal holiday in 1937. Advocates state that Columbus did not “discover” the Americas in 1492, but instead began the colonization of it—a legacy which continues to impact indigenous people today. For example—in 1493 the Papal Bull Inter Cetera was written specifically to grant land rights in the Americas to the nation of the European explorers if no Christian king had yet claimed them. Known as the “Doctrine of Discovery” this law was used in 2005, in a dismissal of the Oneida land claim.

South Dakota officially began celebrating Native American Day in place of Columbus Day in 1990. A few years later Berkeley, CA coined the holiday Indigenous Peoples’ Day to replace Columbus Day and later that year, the UN voted to name October 9th World’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The past twenty years have seen an increasing trend in renaming the October 9th holiday with upwards of three states, 50 cities, and many more universities across the US adopting Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Of course, renaming a holiday does not make up for past or current sins of colonization, exploitation and violence toward Indigenous peoples in the Americas, but it is one of many necessary steps toward a new narrative for the future. We must begin by dismantling the artifacts that have built up this colonial lie that continues to hurt and marginalize populations in the Americas to this day. How can you help with the campaign? Contact NOON and help distribute petitions, spread the word and get involved with future events and dialogues.

– Annie Windholz is on the PNL Editorial Team and a member of NOON