A New Jersey school board has voted to overturn a decision that took all holiday names off the district calendar, following conflict over an earlier decision to refer to Columbus Day as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”
The Randolph Board of Education had voted on June 10 to eliminate all the names of holidays from the school calendar, instead opting to simply label them as a “day off.” The vote was a reaction to backlash over the renaming of Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the school calendar. However, with Monday’s 8-1 vote, all the holiday names were reinstated, with Indigenous Peoples’ Day once again referred to as Columbus Day.
During two-and-a-half hours of public comment ahead of the vote, some claimed that redoing the calendar was a harbinger of “Critical Race Theory,” while others said that it was the first step in the “systematic destruction of our culture.”
Some also said Columbus Day was an important part of their Italian-American heritage, with a few arguing that erasing the name of holidays from the calendar would stifle diversity rather than encourage it.
Many cities and states have ditched Columbus Day, choosing to observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day in its place. Columbus Day is still a federal holiday recognized by the US government, but more than 130 cities have chosen to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead.
The argument against naming the day after Christopher Columbus is largely tied to his role in the mass slaughter and violent colonization of indigenous groups across the Americas.
When New Mexico replaced the holiday with Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2019, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez praised the move.
“For many years, Indigenous people have protested Columbus Day because it celebrates colonialism, oppression, and injustice inflicted on Indigenous peoples,” Nez said in a statement posted on Facebook. “Observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day allows citizens to recognize our rich heritage and represents a step toward healing and growth.”