The Maine state House on Tuesday passed a resolution to change Columbus Day, a holiday celebrated annually in October, to Indigenous People’s Day.
The legislation passed the state chamber by a vote of 88-51, reports Maine Public.
Christopher Columbus, an Italian explorer who completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean, has been celebrated by some U.S. cities since 1792. In 1934, Columbus Day was officially designated a federal holiday. However, Maine lawmakers believe the navigator’s significance to U.S. history is exaggerated, noting that he never sailed to North America, despite being credited with discovering America.
According to Democrat Rep. Rachel Talbot-Ross of Portland, the history of Columbus should not be honored by the state’s residents, calling the famous explorer a “war criminal.”
“Christopher Columbus, while making an important impact on history, was also a war criminal,” Talbot-Ross said. “And is the symbolic genesis of the idea that Indigenous people of the Americas were a savage and inferior race that should be exterminated in order for progress and colonization.”
Conversely, Republican Rep. Roger Reed of Carmel contended Columbus’s actions are a part of the country’s history and should not be erased.
“But as regrettable as these are, they are still part of America’s’ story. We can’t change what has occurred in the past and we certainly don’t condone what has happened,” Reed argued.
Republican Rep. MaryAnne Kinney of Knox agrees with Reed, telling Maine Public: “As bad as it was, it’s our history. And forgetting that history eventually, as the saying goes, if you fail to learn it you repeat it.”
Kinney believes lawmakers should pass a measure creating a separate holiday to honor indigenous peoples. However, Democrat Rep. Mike Sylveste of Portland argues renaming the holiday would set an example for “the future.”
“We cannot change what people stood for in the past; we can define what we stand for here today and what we hope for the Maine of the future,” Sylvester told the news outlet.
Next, the Maine Senate will vote on the resolution and then there will be an additional vote in both chambers of the state’s legislature.