Columbus Day has long been celebrated in the United States as a holiday commemorating Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas in 1492. However, there has been a growing movement to reevaluate and transform this holiday into Indigenous Peoples' Day in recent years.
Ten states and Washington, D.C. now recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day via proclamation, while 10 states officially celebrate it. More than 100 cities celebrate the day.
The idea resonated in Apopka because of its roots with native Americans originating on the banks of Lake Apopka and the surrounding areas.
Here is how Jerrell H. Shoffner, the author of "History of Apopka and Northwest Orange County, Florida" describes Apopka's roots to indigenous people this way:
"The Zellwood archaelogical site is located two miles west of Apopka and about a mile from the present lake shore, and was excavated in the early 1970s. When the Indians lived there, their village was on the edge of the lake. The earliest inhabitants sustained themselves by hunting, but later an agriculturally oriented society developed. Since food and shelter were comparatively easily attained either from the lake itself or from cultivation of the fertile soil adjacent to it, life along the shores of Lake Apopka, for those early inhabitants, seems to have been rather simple."
The Apopka City Council took up the matter at its September 20th meeting.
Commissioner Alexander Smith, who brought up the idea at the September 6th meeting, shifted from changing the Columbus day date, to instead adding Indigenous Peoples' Day as another date.
"Since I brought this up at the last Council meeting, I received several emails, and with a lot of information, a lot of resources to go to and look at, to get some information," Smith said. "And so after doing that research and listening to those individuals that did email, and I responded, I think to all of them. I would like to suggest that we leave Columbus Day as is and that we as the City of Apopka recognize August 9th each year, as indigenous peoples day."
Commissioner Kyle Becker also did not want to end Columbus day to start Indigenous Peoples' Day, but wanted to honor both.
"Columbus Day is still a federally recognized holiday," Becker said. "We're not going to change that. It's like we've talked about here before, we get kind of... it's kind of like when we get some of the local stuff preempted by the state. I don't think that we want to preempt federal holidays... it just causes confusion. I will note, though we may not recognize it, but if we all look at our iPads for that Monday, it does say Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples' Day. I encourage us to honor that. Our roots run to indigenous peoples that lived on the banks of Lake Apopka that originally settled this area... so any kind of homage that we can pay there is good."
Commissioner Diane Velazquez also agreed with Smith.
"We're not going to recommend a change," Velazquez said. "I don't think we were going for a change. I think we were kind of adding the Indigenous Peoples' Day. But since we have a date for them, which is August 9th, then we should pay some homage to them on that day."
Mayor Bryan Nelson hoped to pin a date down specific to the Native Americans coming to the area.
"I just want to let you know I had Steven Crowder who takes care of our Apopka Youth Works... I had him start looking into some to try to find out when there was a date when the Indians came to Lake Apopka," Nelson said. "I couldn't find the date the Native Americans... when they came. I think it would be neat to have a celebration of the people that live there on Lake Apopka. I've got friends who have gotten a lot of arrowheads, and pottery and all that from those days, and it would have been nice. But obviously, it was way before all that came to pass."
The Council voted 5-0 to make Indigenous Peoples' Day August 9th, in accordance with many other municipalities. They did not, however, change Columbus Day from its traditional October 9th date.