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Philadelphia to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of Columbus Day

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Philadelphia has announced it will recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day this year in place of Columbus Day, joining a number of cities and states across the nation that have opted to do the same in recent years.

The city announced the new move in an update it released on an initiative it formed last June that was geared toward “reform and reconciliation” amid widespread protests against police brutality and racial inequality sparked by the police killing of George Floyd.

As part of its efforts to address racial disparities and inequities, the city also said in its announcement that leaders had worked to “examine and update city holidays in relation to racial justice.”

As a result, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D) signed an executive order in late January that added Indigenous Peoples’ Day to the list of the city holidays, the city said. As part of the order, the second Monday of October, which is the day federally reserved for observing Columbus Day, will instead be day recognized by the city as a day to honor the contributions and culture of Native Americans.

The move by the city makes it one of the latest in the nation to forgo celebrating Columbus Day in place of similar holidays observing the histories of indigenous people.

The order signed by Kenney also designated Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery that is celebrated on June 19, as an official city holiday.

“As the city continues its reconciliation work following the uprisings for racial justice last summer, we know that it is critical for government to reckon with our own role in maintaining racial inequities,” Kenney said in a statement. 

“While changes to City holidays may seem largely symbolic, we recognize that symbols carry power. We hope that for our employees and residents of color, this change is viewed as an acknowledgment of the centuries of institutional racism and marginalization that have been forced upon Black Americans, Indigenous people, and other communities of color,” he continued. 

“At the same time, we are clear-eyed about the fact that there is still an urgent need for further substantive systemic change in all areas of local government,” Kenney added.

According to the city’s press release, the holiday changes will be in place in Philadelphia at least until the end of Kenney’s administration. The city said it will also “pursue including these changes permanently as part of the Collective Bargaining Agreements with the four municipal worker unions, which expire this year.”


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