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Columbus Day to become Indigenous Peoples Day in Austin

City Council votes to change local focus of federal holiday

“Dressed in traditional garments, the woman is wearing a black dress with colorful sleeves and a colorful shawl drawn over her shoulders. A tight beaded necklace is around her neck and she is holding a large black and white feather. The man is wearing a b
[Native Americans in Traditional Garments], photograph, [1973-09-07..1973-09-09], at the second annual Texas Folklife Festival
University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History; crediting UT San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.

Columbus Day, a federal holiday observed every year on the second Monday in October, will now be Indigenous Peoples Day, a holiday that celebrates Native Americans, by vote of the Austin City Council on Thursday, according to a story posted the same day on the Austin American-Statesman website.

The change is meant to acknowledge that Christopher Columbus did not “discover America,” as Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria pointed out, as it was already populated by indigenous people.

While the city cannot eliminate a federal holiday, the Statesman added, Columbus Day will no longer be on city calendars.

The Austin school district will continue to give students (though not staff members) the day off on Columbus Day, and the district’s calendar does not refer to the holiday by name, the paper reported.

According to the Statesman, the Council vote was 9-1-1, with Council Member Ellen Troxclair against and Council Member Alison Alter abstaining.

Austin joins other U.S. cities—including Seattle, Wa.; Denver, Colo.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Los Angeles—in renaming the holiday, the story added; however, it was noted by Tane Ward from the organization Equilibrio Norte “[C]hanging the names of things ... doesn’t change the material conditions of inequality that exist in this state.”

At the same meeting, according to the daily, the council also voted to condemn the display of monuments and memorials to the Confederacy and directed city staff to “identify all Confederate monuments in Austin and research how they might be removed. Troxclair also voted against that item, the story added.

Council Member Ann Kitchen’s effort to have the city rename Robert E. Lee Road after Azie Taylor Morton, the only African-American person to be U.S. treasurer, is already underway, according to the story.

Austin City Council replaces Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day [AAS]