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Penn students walking through campus during a march, urging the University to recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day, on Oct. 11.

Credit: Samantha Turner

Philadelphia joined a growing number of cities and states in recognizing Indigenous Peoples' Day rather than Columbus Day this year.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney issued an executive order this year to change Columbus Day — traditionally observed on the second Monday of October — to Indigenous Peoples' Day, and to officially recognize Juneteenth. In an emailed statement, Kenney said that the official designation was an “opportunity to recognize and teach about the atrocities that have occurred to Indigenous people through colonialism." 

The transition has been met with support from Native American groups and has drawn criticism from some Italian Americans who celebrate Christopher Columbus as the country’s first Italian immigrant. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that people who attended Philadelphia's Italian festival on Oct. 10 expressed anger, disappointment, and frustration with efforts to rename the holiday and to remove the Columbus statue from Marconi Plaza.

On Oct. 8, the Vice Provost for University Life Mamta Accapadi and Vice Provost for Education Karen Detlefsen sent out an emailed statement to members of the Penn community urging them to reflect on the day’s history and further their support for the Native/Indigenous communities at Penn and beyond. 

“Penn is proud to have many Native/Indigenous students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and we are committed to increasing awareness of this day and of Native American history and traditions,” the email reads. “We respectfully acknowledge that we are situated on part of Lenapehoking, the ancestral and spiritual homeland of the Lenni-Lenape people.” 

Natives at Penn, an on-campus organization that works with administration and faculty to represent and increase the visibility of Indigenous students at the University, hosted an Indigenous Peoples' Day March on campus this afternoon. The march comes as a result of the University’s decision not to add Indigenous Peoples’ Day to the University calendar, despite a petition which garnered over 1,000 signatures last year calling on the administration to do so. 

While Natives at Penn released a statement expressing their gratitude for the administration’s acknowledgement of the holiday, they called on the administration to reconsider adding the holiday to its calendar. 

“Indigenous People have historically been overlooked, and this is also the case at Penn,” Natives at Penn’s statement, published via Instagram, reads. “To fully honor and acknowledge Indigenous People here at Penn, we demand Indigenous Peoples’ Day be added to the University calendar.”