Move over, Columbus: 2 NJ towns to mark Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Princeton has joined Newark as the first two communities in the state to mark Indigenous Peoples Day on what traditionally has been Columbus Day.
Earlier this month, Princeton's mayor and municipal council passed a resolution that declares the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day out of observance of at least three Native American tribes with historic roots in New Jersey, which only recently received official recognition.
In November 2018, the state acknowledged it has officially recognized the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation (with 3,000 members) as an American Indian Tribe since 1982.
In March, New Jersey entered into separate settlement agreements with the Powhatan Renape Nation and the Ramapough Lenape Nation, as the state acknowledged that it officially has recognized the two American Indian Tribes since 1980.
Newark has been observing the newer holiday since 2017, when Mayor Ras Baraka signed an executive order to that effect.
On the Newark public school calendar, the holiday is marked as Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples' Day.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes Native Americans, who were the first inhabitants of the land that later became the United States of America.
Back in May, the Bergen County community of Glen Rock was the focus of another Columbus Day debate, as the council considered a request from several residents, before unanimously deciding to keep the traditional holiday on the calendar.
At the time, Mayor Bruce Packer said: “We are thankful to all of the residents who attended our meetings and who reached out with their thoughtful points of view. We move on with a much better respect and understanding of all sides of the issue, including the significance of this holiday to our Italian-American residents and neighbors that often goes well beyond the man that it is named for.”
Columbus Day became a federal holiday in 1937.
Advocates for the newer holiday argue that Christopher Columbus arriving in America in 1492 was not actually its discovery, but the start of colonization. There also is objection raised to slavery and deadly contagious diseases that were forced upon native populations as European settlers arrived.
For New Jersey communities with strong Italian-American heritage, not only does Columbus Day live on, but there are still parades and festivals tied into the fall weekend.
The Jersey City Columbus Day parade is set for a week earlier on Oct. 6.
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