One of America’s national holidays will never be observed in Vermont again…at least, not under its best-known name.
Vermont now has a new law renaming the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day.
In some areas of the country, vandalism of Christopher Columbus statues in recent years has been a reaction to the brutality of European conquest of the New World. That conquest directly followed Columbus’ four voyages to the New World, including Columbus himself sending slaves from the Caribbean to Europe in 1495.
Vermont lawmakers have passed, and Gov. Phil Scott has signed, a new law to shift the emphasis of Columbus Day toward native people.
“The political scene today is a little temperamental and somewhat antagonistic,” Gregory Clairmont said. “People are wanting to be included in everything, and I think that our country does a good job of that. It’s just that we’re losing sight of the fact of some of our founders doing so many awesome things.”
Clairmont is a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic fraternal service organization. He’s the Worthy Grand Knight of the Saint Stephen’s Council #2284 in Winooski and he opposes the new law.
“I think it’s really not all that great of an idea, because I think Christopher Columbus deserves credit for what he did and all the heroics and all the self-sacrifice that he gave of himself and his crew to discover America,” Clairmont said.
Europeans didn’t know that the Caribbean, Central America or South America existed until Columbus visited them.
“We’re taking the foundation of our country and we’re changing it to be somewhat all-inclusive of everybody everywhere,” Clairmont said. “I think we’re losing a little bit of our tenacity and we’re losing a little bit of our freedom of speech and we’re taking a little bit away from the foundation of this country.”
Vermont actually hasn’t observed Columbus Day under that name since 2015. Until the signing of this new law, Gov. Peter Shumlin and Gov. Scott had proclaimed it Indigenous Peoples’ Day three years in a row.
Vermont is now the fourth U.S. state to legally rename Columbus Day, following New Mexico, South Dakota and Maine, which just did it two weeks ago. Alaska has also never recognized Columbus Day as a holiday.