GREENVILLE, NC (WITN) Students and staff gathered in ECU's student center on Columbus Day to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day and recognize American Indian culture.
Many have chosen to observe this day in place of Columbus Day as away to reclaim the day, saying that the Native Americans were here before Columbus, and that his treatment and mass murder of indigenous people in the 1400's should not make him a hero.
Supporters of Columbus Day, however, defend it by noting his accomplishments in exploration and saying there is room for both holidays.
J.J. Regan, Knights of Columbus financial secretary says, "That's very important I think that's something that we should celebrate as a culture but I think there's room for both holidays. You know I don't think it should be one or the other. If we're gonna live in a diverse nation, we have to learn to live together and with each other's differences."
Aleshia Hunt, the ECU Native American Organization Co-Advisor and from the Lumbee tribe, said the day is important because their people and culture are alive and well. "A lot of people think hey, American Indians are dead and deceased or living on reservations. You meet someone at least once a day if not more than that that is American Indian. We don't walk around with a badge saying, hey I'm American Indian, but we are here," she said.
North Carolina has the 8th highest state population of Native Americans in the U.S., with over 122,000 living here.
Four states have committed to celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day in place of Columbus Day. They are Minnesota, Vermont, Alaska and South Dakota. U.S. cities across the nation have also committed to this.
Governor Roy Cooper also declared October 14th Indigenous Peoples' day for the state of North Carolina.