It’s Columbus Day !

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

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

       It’s also a legal  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.

     South Dakota’s Native American Day, 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 holiday the second Monday of the month to create a 3-day weekend.

       Columbus Day began to draw controversy in the 1970s from other nationalities who said their explorers reached the Western Hemisphere first and from those who blamed Columbus for the near elimination of the indigenous peoples and cultures

     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 will be 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 naming the Crazy Horse Memorial Educator of the Year, honoring an individual who has made significant contributions to Native American education. 

      The award includes a $1,000 grant to the recipient’s school library or to programs of their choice that help students.

    There’s also a free public program featuring Native American singers and dancers while programs and displays featuring artists, storytellers and hands-on activities for children are offered in the visitor complex.

      A blast on the mountain carving is planned, weather permitting, and a free buffalo stew lunch is available for all visitors.