The bill would go into effect on October 12.
In an effort to recognize the history of America's indigenous populations, the Baltimore City Council recently introduced a bill to change the Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples' Day.
Councilman John Bullock unveiled the bill last week, where it has found support among members including Ryan Dorsey, Sharon Green Middleton, and City Council President Brandon Scott. Scott sponsored the same bill back in 2016 but failed to secure enough votes. Should it pass, the bill would go into effect on this year's holiday of Monday, October 12.
Christopher Columbus' legacy has invited increased criticism in the wake of nationwide protests against institutionalized racism and calls for social justice. This has hit close to home in Baltimore earlier this year, as protesters dumped a statue of the colonizer into Inner Harbor on the Fourth of July.
"History, oftentimes, has left a lot to be desired," Bullock stated at the council meeting.
As various communities across the city convened for a hearing on the bill, the consensus on the name change appeared split. Indigenous residents, including Jennifer Aphelion who is Cherokee, Aztec, and Pueblo, support the bill's recognition of indigenous groups and their struggle to have their existence acknowledged in a society prone to erasure.
“Children often gain confidence when they see reflected images of themselves and family in the home, and Baltimore is home to many urban Indians like myself,” Aphelion said. “Moving to have Indigenous Peoples Day, that is to see ourselves reflected in Baltimore City.”
Those who opposed the bill were members of the city's Italian-American community, including former state senator John Pica.
“If you are going to eliminate Columbus Day, you should rename it for another iconic Italian-American,” Pica said. “If that’s not done, that’s an insult to Italian-Americans.”
A member of Baltimore Italians for Indigenous Peoples' Day, Sammy Didonato, spoke out in favor of change, citing the colonizer's genocidal history.
“We understand that the older generation of Italian-Americans needed to find a hero in Columbus in the 1900s when it was offered to them. ... That's not a reality that anyone on this call is trying to deny," he said.
Indigenous Peoples' Day originally launched in South Dakota in 1989. Since then it's gained traction in cities and states alike. As of 2019, the DMV has seen Alexandria, Virginia; Takoma Park, Maryland; and D.C. adopt the holiday.
What do you think about the Baltimore City Council's bill? Should the holiday's name be changed? Sound off in the comments!