It’s Columbus Day – Or Native American Day


     Today is Columbus Day…or at least the legal holiday version of Columbus Day, although in South Dakota it’s Native American Day while some states recognize Indigenous Peoples Day.

     Columbus Day is a national holiday with federal offices and financial institutions closed and no mail delivery.

       It’s a holiday in many states, including Nebraska, with state and county offices closed but with many cities still doing business as usual and most school districts having classes.

      Native American Day in South Dakota, although observed with a wide range of public programs, is not a legal holiday.

      Columbus, an Italian sailing for Spain, first made landfall in the Western Hemisphere on Oct 12, 1492, but Congress decided to make the legal holiday the second Monday of the month to create a 3-day weekend.

       Columbus Day began to draw controversy in the 1970s over claims that other explorers reached the Western Hemisphere first and from those who blame Columbus for the near elimination of the indigenous peoples and cultures of the hemisphere.

     That led the South Dakota Legislature in 1990 to replace Columbus Day with Native American Day to recognize the more than 70,000 American Indians living in the state. It’s the nation’s oldest official holiday honoring American Indians.

       One of the biggest celebrations is at the Crazy Horse Memorial mountain carving northwest of Custer, where admission to the Memorial is waived today with 3 cans of food per person.

     The celebration includes a program at 10:00 that includes honoring an individual who has made significant contributions to Native American education as the Crazy Horse Memorial Educator of the Year. The award includes a $1,000 grant to the recipient’s school library or to programs of their choice that help students.

    Renown performer Kevin Locke will give a dance performance while the guest speaker is former Speaker of the South Dakota Legislature Mark Mickelson, the son and grandson of governors named George Mickelson

    There is a free buffalo stew lunch, renown Native American flutist Jonah Littlesunday performs at 1:30, and there are programs and displays featuring artists, storytellers and hands-on activities for children.