The Seattle City Council unanimously voted on Monday to redesignate the federal Columbus Day holiday as Indigenous Peoples’ Day to reflect that Native Americans were living on the continent before Christopher Columbus’ 15th Century arrival.
Mayor Ed Murray was expected to swiftly sign the measure, making Seattle the second major U.S. city after Minneapolis to mark Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday in October, the same day as Columbus Day.
The change will take effect for the upcoming October 13 holiday, the city council said.
The legislation acknowledges that Native Americans were already living in the Americas before Columbus’ arrival and says Seattle, named after a Native American tribal chief, was built atop indigenous peoples’ homes.
“Nobody discovered Seattle, Washington,” Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp told the council. “This action will allow us to bring into future and present a day honoring our rich history.”
The move to redesignate Columbus Day had vocal opposition by some Italian-Americans, who said the holiday has long been a celebration of Italian history in the United States.
“Italians are intensely offended,” Seattle native Lisa Marchese told the council. “For decades, Italian-Americans celebrated not the man, but the symbol of Columbus Day. That symbol means we honor the legacy of our ancestors who immigrated to Seattle, overcame poverty, a language barrier, and above all, discrimination.”
Other Italian-Americans urged the council to designate a day separate from the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
The Seattle School Board last week voted to observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day in public schools on the same day as Columbus Day.
Several states, including Alaska, Hawaii and Oregon, do not recognize Columbus Day, which became a U.S. federal holiday in 1937. The California city of Berkeley stopped recognizing the day in 1992. Minneapolis voted in April to replace Columbus Day.
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Andre Grenon)