On April 26, Gov. Janet Mills signed a new bill that changed the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the state of Maine. At the signing of the bill, Mills was joined by Maulian Dana, ambassador of the Penobscot Nation, and Rep. Benjamin Collings, in addition to representatives from other tribes around the state.
The change will take effect in early October of this year. Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Columbus Day are celebrated on the second Monday in October.
“Our history is by no means perfect,” Mills said, according to her official webpage. “But, for too long, it has been written and presented in a way that fails to acknowledge our shortcomings. There is power in a name and in who we choose to honor. Today, we take another step in healing the divisions of the past, in fostering inclusiveness, in telling a fuller, deeper history, and in bringing the State and Maine’s tribal communities together to build a future shaped by mutual trust and respect.”
Rep. Collings, of Portland, sponsored the bill which received support from both sides of the aisle in the Maine legislature.
The name change allows Maine to join the ranks of states around the nation who are part of a movement to change the tradition associated with this holiday, which takes place on October 14 this year.
Celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day began in 1989 in the United States in South Dakota.
Today, the following states celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Alaska, Minnesota, Vermont, Oregon and Nevada. In addition, there are also many cities around the nation that celebrate the holiday, including Austin, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Nashville, Tennessee; and both Bangor and Orono, Maine.
Before last week, numerous towns and cities in Maine had already recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
In late 2017, on the heels of a similar decision in Bangor mere months earlier, the Orono Town Council voted unanimously to change the name of the holiday in the town.
The UMaine College Republicans shared a news article discussing the name change in the state on its Facebook page.
“Why is the left trying to erase our traditions?” the post asked.
In early March, a long-term battle in Maine between interest groups came to a head when Skowhegan High School’s school board voted to disband the school’s “Indians” nickname.
The 14-9 vote ended years of debate over the issue.
At one point, many schools in Maine had mascots referencing indigenous peoples, including Scarborough High School, Old Town High School, Wiscasset High School, Sanford High School and Husson University. All of these institutions have since changed their mascots.