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Our view: States should decide fate of Columbus Day

Herald editorial board

We are not proponents of changing place names to better fit political correctness. President Obama was wrong, in our opinion, to change the name of Alaska's Mount McKinley to Denali in 2015.

Meanwhile, we have urged a national cleansing of Confederate-related statues and flags throughout America, because those relics honor former rebels who took up arms against the United States and fought to preserve slavery, our nation's greatest sin.

Most recently, we watched this week as Columbus Day raised the ire of many across the country who feel the holiday honors a history of violence and colonization of indigenous peoples in North America.

Detractors say Columbus is wrongly credited with "discovering" America and note that he enslaved natives of the West Indies. And, of course, Columbus was the tip of the white settlement spear that forever changed the way of life for American Indians.

So, should Columbus Day end nationwide? Probably, but it should be left up to individual states.

And in states with large populations of American Indians, it just makes sense to change the holiday to honor the indigenous peoples of the region. Dozens of cities and a small group of states already have chosen to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day — generally doing it on the same day as Columbus Day.

In South Dakota, it's called Native American Day. South Dakotans do not recognize Columbus Day, but they still consider the second Monday in October a state holiday.

That decision came after the late Gov. George S. Mickelson proclaimed 1990 as South Dakota's Year of Reconciliation. As part of that effort, Mickelson, who died in a plane crash in 1993, created Native American Day.

In South Dakota, which has a large American Indian population, it makes sense. Same for Minnesota, where Gov. Mark Dayton last year signed a proclamation creating Indigenous Peoples' Day. Numerous cities across the national are doing the same.

North Dakota should be next.

Times are changing. Bright, young people are taking on roles of leadership, and they come with an acutely politically correct mindset.

At times, that's refreshing — such as the recent push to rid public places across America of Confederate statues and flags. At times, it gets to be too much — such as efforts to change centuries-old geographic place names.

Maybe a state like New York — with a large population of Italian Americans — isn't ready to nix Columbus Day. But it's a different story in states like South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota, all of which have indigenous populations and a rich American Indian history.

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