D.C. joins South Dakota in changing name of Columbus Day

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - The DC Council is passed an emergency bill Tuesday to change the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous People's Day temporarily for a year.

Tim Giago talks about a letter Governor George Mickelson sent to him in the 1990s. (KEVN)

South Dakota has been ahead of the game for 30 years by celebrating Native American Day.

In 1990, South Dakota officially chucked the name Columbus Day out and replaced it with Native American Day. The first state to do so.

Recently, the D.C council got on board and voted to change the name of the holiday, but it will only last temporarily in the nation's capital.

"I think it's a long time a coming," Giago said.

Tim Giago is a Native American who helped convince former state Governor George Mickelson to create Native American Day in South Dakota.

"I sat down and had a long talk with him and we talked about race relations. It was one of his big concerns as governor of South Dakota. And he wanted to do something to try improve race relations," Giago said.

Giago pushed for the name change when the Wounded Knee Massacre was coming up on it's centennial.

In the letter Governor Mickelson sent to Giago, the governor said he couldn't agree more with the name change.

So in the "Year of Reconciliation" Mickelson called for the new celebration.

But even after it was officially adopted, the change did not easily catch on.

"Indian schools, the tribes, the state media and the state businesses, even after Columbus Day was removed and Native American Day became a state holiday I could pull into any bank in town and a big sign in the window would say closed for Columbus Day," Giago said.

Though Columbus Day sales may still loom, some effort is being made. Several banks in Rapid City have signs on their doors saying closed, but with both names of the holiday.

"So it's just a hard thing to even to get changed today in 2019," Giago said.

However, Giago said he admires passing out candy to Lakota children on the day of the parade as he looks from side to side to see a variety of faces and cultures coming together.

"A lot of non-natives that were out there too. That were standing along side watching and learning and enjoying the day to so. I think it helped bring the community together. I think we have a lot further to go. But we have a small beginning right now," Giago said.