STATEWIDE – For the first time in state history, Mainers are celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of Columbus Day.
Since 1937, Columbus Day has been celebrated on the second Monday of October.
In April, Governor Janet mills signed the legislation officially transforming Columbus Day into Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
The Penobscot Nation Ambassador says she is happy for the change.
“It’s a relief of sorts,” said Maulian Dana, a Penobscot Nation tribal ambassador. “I remember growing up, we didn’t acknowledge Columbus Day. We’d go to work, go to school. It was a passive protest of the day. But we always knew what the day was about and what it stood for, and it made indigenous people feel really invisible and feel like we didn’t matter.”
She says she feels Columbus Day is a slap in the face to her and other people of indigenous nations.
“We were celebrating somebody supposedly discovering a place where our ancestors already lived, so it never quite made sense and it was actually hurtful,” said Dana. “To pass this at a statewide level especially after all the efforts in the past few years getting it past all the towns and stuff, it’s really great to have it statewide.”
But the change isn’t without resistance. Waterville’s mayor declared Oct. 14 as Columbus Day at a city council meeting earlier in the month.
Dana says she is confident the new holiday will grow in popularity.
“I think it will all evolve as we get celebrating it and it is started as kind of a grassroots thing. We’ve had little ceremonies and talking circles and it grew and grew,” Dana said.
Maine joins several other states, including Vermont, in celebrating the new holiday.