Yet the battle for Indigenous rights is gaining traction and visibility: with each passing year, more and more places are abolishing Columbus Day and celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day in its place.

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“Indigenous Peoples Day represents a shift in consciousness,” Dr. Leo Killsback, a citizen of the Northern Cheyenne Nation and assistant professor of American Indian Studies at Arizona State University, told¬†CNN. “It acknowledges that Indigenous peoples and their voices are important in today’s conversations.”

And this year saw Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, proclaim Monday Indigenous Peoples Day, which followed similar proclamations from officials in Phoenix, Arizona; Denver, Colorado; Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, among nine other U.S. locales.

“One of the biggest misconceptions about Columbus is that he was righteous. The truth is that he was wicked and responsible for the rape and murder of innocent Indigenous people,” Killsback, who pushed for Indigenous Peoples Day in Phoenix, added to CNN.

Meanwhile, activists continue to push for the federal government and public schools to stop celebrating Christopher Columbus: “If we are sincere in our claim that all lives have value,” writes author and high school teacher Bill Bigelow, “then schools need to refuse to honor the first European colonialist of the Americas, the ‘father of the slave trade.'”

“This is not about what went on 500 years ago,” Bigelow adds. “It’s about what’s going on today: an inspiring struggle for rights and dignity.”

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