The holiday that celebrates the city’s namesake will be called into question Wednesday when Undergraduate Student Government votes on a resolution during its weekly general assembly meeting.
The resolution, if passed, suggests that administrators officially rid Ohio State of Columbus Day, a federal holiday created to honor Christopher Columbus’s arrival to the Americas in 1492. The resolution also proposes to replace the holiday with Indigenous Peoples’ Day to recognize cultures that are native to the Americas prior to European settlement.
USG cannot enforce this policy, as its general assembly resolutions are only suggestions to university administrative policies. This suggestion would call for more educational activities to bring awareness to the contributions of indigenous people during its day of celebration.
Co-sponsor of the resolution Alex Leeder, a fourth-year in theater and the USG director of diversity and inclusion, said the committee is not creating the resolution to change the way Ohio State observes Columbus Day, because it currently does not close offices or cancel class on the day it takes place.
Instead, Leeder said the resolution seeks to simply change the name that might bring stress to students.
“I don’t necessarily think that we are trying to do anything radical and change anything that happens about the day, I just think it’s reconstituting the name,” Leeder said. “I know that it is an incredibly triggering and problematic thing for a lot of Native American people especially on campus.”
The holiday and the people involved have a complicated history.
Columbus Day was officially recognized as a national holiday by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1934, but it was celebrated for centuries in the Americas. The holiday has been at the center of controversy due to Columbus’ and other explorers’ treatment of indigenous people.
The holiday and its recognition of Columbus received pushback when Berkeley, California, became the first city or state to recognize the counter-celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival.
For this year’s Columbus Day, Oct. 9, four states, 57 cities and three universities recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day, with the majority using it as the direct replacement of Columbus Day, according to Time Magazine.
There are no Big Ten universities that recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Oberlin is the only Ohio city that recognizes the replacement.
Not all of USG hopes to see this resolution pass.
Nick Davis, a fourth-year in natural resources management, and USG member said that he will be voting a “resounding no.”
He said Columbus’s contributions to history are too important to be switched with another holiday.
“You wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be here, none of us would be here if Christopher Columbus hadn’t brought Western civilization to America back in 1492,” Davis said. “The indigenous people who were here before Christopher Columbus, they weren’t civilized people and so he created a connection between Europe and what became the Americas. It’s something that happened in our history that is not going to go away.”
Instead, Davis said he suggests that Ohio State create a separate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on a different day, while also continuing to recognize Columbus Day.
The idea to replace Columbus Day was spearheaded by the Council of Graduate Students, USG’s graduate school counterpart. It introduced the idea to the undergraduate caucus and the Inter-Professional Council, the graduate professional school equivalent, after CGS passed a similar resolution Sept. 29.
Leeder said if the three governing bodies that represent the student body want to further this policy by passing similar resolutions, it would be a powerful testimony to take to administrators.
He said there are no plans set for what the day of recognition would look like. Co-sponsor Farhan Quadri, a fifth-year in biological engineering and a USG engineering senator, said the holiday would be seen as a day to validate a community that hasn’t been given enough attention.
“We’re paying respects to those students that the day would be for or to pay respect to their contribution to the university, their presence at the university, their validation and their history,” Quadri said.
The vote will take place during the general assembly meeting Wednesday in the Ohio Union Senate Chamber.