Why does the US have a national holiday commemorating a man many see as an immoral conqueror? That's a question they're asking all across the US, NPR reports, with places including, most recently, the city of Phoenix and the entire state of Vermont altering the holiday in order to honor the people who lived in America before Columbus "discovered" it. While the movement has gained momentum in the last few years, there has been no national directive one way or the other. Some states and cities—including Seattle, Minneapolis, Boulder, Denver, Albuquerque, South Dakota, and Alaska—have chosen to officially celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, while others, like Cincinnati and Oklahoma City, have voted down such proposals and still celebrate Columbus Day.
Dr. Leo Killsback, an assistant professor of American Indian Studies at Arizona State University, tells CNN the controversy stems from a basic misunderstanding of American history. "One of the biggest misconceptions about Columbus is that he was righteous," KIllsback says. "The truth is that he was wicked and responsible for the rape and murder of innocent indigenous people." Plus, Columbus never even made it to the US mainland—he landed in present-day Haiti, and on subsequent voyages he journeyed to other parts of the Caribbean. Regardless of what you call it, only 23 states recognize the second Monday of October as a paid holiday. So you probably still have to go to work.