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District 153 replaces Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day

This school year’s calendar is in flux, but Homewood District 153 board members adopted the 2020-21 school calendar and designated Oct. 12 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, rather than the traditional Columbus Day.

Columbus Day was declared a national holiday in 1934 in recognition of Christopher Columbus’ exploration of a new world. And, it became a special day of honor for Italian-Americans.

The national move to Indigenous Peoples’ Day began in 1990 when South Dakota officially changed the Oct. 12 celebration to Native Americans Day. Since then, cities and states have been considering ways to recognize the many tribes that populated what today is the United States and how conquerors took their lands and tried to wipe out their societies. 

There are currently an estimated 6.8 million American Indians and Alaska Natives, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 data.

At the board meeting Monday, March 16, board member Ashanti Bethea thanked Superintendent Dale Mitchell for the change, adding “it means a lot.”

Other board members seconded her response. James Schmidt asked if the district could plan a cultural event around the day.

Mitchell said changing the designation gives a whole new meaning to the day. He believes “it would actually lead to better education, better conversation with teachers” about that time in history. He anticipates it will be “a cool thing for our kids and teachers going forward to have conversations about the history.” 

Bethea stressed that it also means “teaching our children what’s historically correct.”

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