The state of Maine officially replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Friday, joining a growing list of states that are changing the name of the holiday to honor Native American communities.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, signed the legislation into law at a ceremony at the Maine State House and said she wants the state to come to grips with the more controversial parts of the American past.
“Our history is by no means perfect. But, for too long, it has been written and presented in a way that fails to acknowledge our shortcomings,” Mills said in a statement.
“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.”
In the past years, there has been heavy pushback on the existing holiday by activists who say honoring Christopher Columbus ignores the atrocities that he and other European explorers committed upon arriving on the continent. Others also point to the conclusion many historians have reached: Columbus was neither the first person nor the first European to discover the Americas.
Earlier this month, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day, saying she was “proud” to make the change. Alaska, Minnesota and Oregon have already left Columbus behind. South Dakota has been celebrating Native American Day since 1990.
In 2017, President Donald Trump showered Columbus with praise, calling him a “skilled navigator and man of faith, whose courageous feat brought together continents and has inspired countless others to pursue their dreams and convictions.”
However, at the signing of the bill in Maine, there was no praise for Columbus.
“With this bill, let us continue to heal the divisions of our past and bring the State and Maine’s tribal communities together to build a future shaped by mutual trust and respect,” Mills said.