The Seattle City Council on Monday unanimously adopted a resolution to celebrate the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples' Day.
While the day is marked federally as Columbus Day, the resolution states the newly recognized day will be an opportunity for the city "to celebrate the thriving cultures and values of the Indigenous Peoples of our region."
"The City of Seattle strongly encourages Seattle Public Schools to include the teaching of indigenous people's history," the text also notes.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant, one of the sponsors of the resolution, said at the Council meeting that it "is about more than just a name change. It is about educating ourselves and our children, about taking a stand against racism and discrimination."
"When Columbus arrived on this continent, there were an estimated 50 – 100 million indigenous people already living in what came to be known as the 'New World.' He did not embark on a simple voyage of exploration. It was always intended as a voyage of conquest and, ultimately, colonization."
Seattle "should not honor a man who played such a pivotal role in the worst genocide humankind has ever known," the socialist said.
In response to objections to those who felt the change would be an affront to Italian-Americans, Sawant said that the true Italian-Americans to be celebrated are those who engaged in struggles for social justice.
Bill Bigelow, Curriculum Editor of Rethinking Schools and co-editor of Rethinking Columbus, which offers resources for teaching about the impact of Columbus on the Americas, said he was delighted with Seattle's declaration.
"Too many children still learn the myth that Christopher Columbus discovered America. It's not a harmless story," he told Common Dreams.
"The Columbus myth erases the humanity of Indigenous Peoples and offers legitimacy to the notion that it's OK for big countries to bully little countries and for white people to dominate people of color. These are not values our children should learn. I hope Seattle's resolution inspires other cities and school districts to rethink Columbus and to honor Indigenous Peoples," Bigelow said.
The City Council move comes a week after the Seattle School Board made the same unanimous decision.