Christopher Columbus is neither gone nor forgotten. But his once prized place on the calendar, at least in the eyes of a growing number of states and local governments, has, shall we say, been dislodged.
Monday, Oct. 11, is Indigenous People's Day for many states, cities and school districts, including the Rochester School District, which formally removed Columbus from its calendar five years ago and replaced it with a day devoted to celebrating indigenous people.
The movement to balance what many consider a one-sided narrative -- millions of people already inhabited the Americas when the Italian explorer "discovered" the New World -- continues apace.
Last month, the Rochester School Board named its new middle school "Dakota" to the acclaim of many in the area Native American community. Two years ago, Mayor Kim Norton issued a proclamation replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People's Day for future years. Last week, Joe Biden became the first president to do the same, recasting it as a day of appreciation of the American Indian people.
Regan Kluver, Rochester Public School's American Indian liaison, said the district is still in the "awareness stage" in terms of recognizing the day in the district's classrooms. There is no set curriculum in K-12 about indigenous people and their history, but conversations have taken place on what that might look like.
As a Native American liaison, Kluver's job is provide cultural resources and develop programming for staff. Districts that have more than 10 Native American students qualify for American Indian education programming, she said. Rochester has an estimated 200 Native American students.
One thing Kluver has done in past years -- and will do Monday -- is send an email blast to all the district's teaching staff with vetted Native American resources that classrooms can use. The district's social media pages also will be be used to broadcast the day.
"I believe it's a conversation that happens in each grade level that we acknowledge Indigenous People's Day," Kluver said.
There is no question that Columbus is a significant historical figure, but his place in the sun -- Columbus Day is still a federal holiday -- has dimmed during a reckoning of his legacy. One abiding mystery is why Columbus was celebrated to the extent he once was when he never set foot on North America. Columbus never made it to the United States, even though he did anchor in the Bahamas.
Politics and the changing face of America largely explain his iconic status.
Italian-Americans began immigrating to the U.S. in sizable numbers between 1880 and the start of World War I in 1914. And as they began to settle in the country's major cities, rising anti-Italian sentiments became a problem. It sometimes led to violence. Celebrating the life and accomplishments of Columbus, many in the Italian-American community believed, was a way for them to gain acceptance by the main stream.
The U.S. is in the midst of another large-scale demographic change. And the way it looks at history is changing as well.
Kluver said she doesn't believe that Columbus should be erased from classroom conversations, but he needs to be "recontextualized." That means unraveling the myths that have been allowed to gather around the Genoese explorer.
"It's very important that when we find out information about an historical figure that we just don't completely erase that person, because there is an historical impact," Kluver said. "But we should definitely do a lot of debunking. His voyage never let him set on this continent. Things like that."