Alexandria to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day

City officials in Alexandria, Virginia, have voted to recognize the second Monday in October — traditionally known as Columbus Day — as Indigenous Peoples Day.

The Alexandria City Council unanimously adopted the resolution Tuesday as a way to “acknowledge the overlooked history of oppression and the decimation of Native Americans,” according to a memo from city officials.

The change, which recognizes Indigenous Peoples Day as an official city holiday, won’t have an impact on the existing federal or state holiday that honors Christopher Columbus, city officials said.

Since 1994, more than 130 cities across the U.S. have replaced Columbus Day with a day honoring Native Americans. Alexandria’s resolution makes it one of the first jurisdictions in the D.C. area to do so.

Earlier this year, in Virginia, Virginia Tech and the town of Dumfries voted to dump Columbus Day in favor of a day honoring Native Americans. Charlottesville has celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day since 2017.

A legislative effort to replace Columbus Day in D.C. stalled in the D.C. Council two years ago.

The July 19 memo from Alexandria Councilman Mo Seifeldein and Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker lays out several reasons for switching the name.

“While it is crucial to recognize the contributions European explorers and the founding fathers have made, it is equally important to understand that places like Alexandria were home to many indigenous people, commonly known as Native Americans, for thousands of years,” the memo stated.

Before the arrival of English settlers, the land that became Virginia was home to 50,000 indigenous people, according to the memo. The council said that the indigenous tribes in the area had been allied with the powerful Powhatan Confederacy. See an interactive map to learn more about which indigenous tribes lived in the D.C. area.

“Many indigenous people were displaced from their homelands and driven onto reservations as the English, and, later, American colonial settlers pushed to occupy more land in the region,” according to the memo. “Many of the indigenous peoples in Virginia had been subjugated, killed or removed by the turn of the 18th century.”

The resolution adopted by the council also encourages Alexandria City Public Schools to include the teaching of Native American history and calls on all sports organizations operating in Virginia to stop using Native Americans as mascots, among other measures.

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