Barely noticed in the hurly-burly of the 24/7 news cycle and the 9,000th untruth of the Twitterer-in-Chief in February was the announcement by the Virginia town of Dumfries that it had rescinded the celebration of Columbus and Lee-Jackson days. The Lee-Jackson cancellation followed that of a number of Commonwealth localities. Dumfries elected (lol) to recognize Lee-Jackson each November on Election Day. The change concerning Columbus Day, however, connects with a national movement.
Dumfries proudly proclaims it is the state’s first chartered town, having been established in 1749 and with a current population of nearly 33,000. According to a resolution adopted by the town council, the Columbus Day holiday is to be replaced with an Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration in recognition of the presence of Native Americans in Virginia and in the United States. In part, the resolution stated:
There’s a growing recognition and understanding in the United States that the celebration of Columbus Day is insulting to indigenous Peoples and … is contrary to the fact that a way of life for indigenous Peoples was irrevocably impacted with the arrival of the first European immigrants to the Americas.
As it turns out, Dumfries’ decision is not at all an outlier. Maine recently adopted Indigenous Peoples Day. In Hawaii, the holiday is known as Discoverers’ Day. Alaska renamed it in 2015, while a number of localities such as Minneapolis and Seattle have made the switch. It’s Native American Day in South Dakota. Sandusky (Ohio) also swapped Columbus for Election Day. Oklahoma opted to combine to Columbus and Native American Day.
In sum, the Commonwealth has been sent a message, and it remains to be seen whether the General Assembly takes note of the smoke signal.