Posted 6 months ago
By John Axtell
Today is Columbus Day…or at least the legal holiday version of Columbus Day. The Italian explorer sailing for Spain first made landfall in the Western Hemisphere on Oct 12, 1492, but Congress decided to mark it on the second Monday of the month to create a 3-day weekend.
As a result, today is a national holiday with federal offices and financial institutions closed and no mail delivery. Of course, many of those federal offices were already closed because of the shutdown.
It’s also a state holiday in many states including Nebraska, with state and county offices closed but with some cities still doing business as usual and most school districts having classes.
Columbus Day began to draw controversy in the 1970s from other nationalities who said their explorers reached the Western Hemisphere first and from those blamed Columbus for the near elimination of the indigenous peoples and cultures of the hemisphere.
That led the South Dakota Legislature in 1990 to replace Columbus Day with Native American Day to honor the more than 70,000 American Indians living in the state. It’s the nation’s oldest official holiday honoring American Indians.
One of the biggest observances of the day will be at the Crazy Horse Memorial near Custer, where admission is free today with a donation of 3 cans of food per person.
There will be a buffalo stew lunch and, weather-permitting, a mountain blast, preceded by a program with Oglala Lakota College President Thomas Shortbull the keynote speaker and showcasing the talents of Navajo painter, illustrator, dancer, and flute maker-musician Art Red Horse.
Wrapping up the day will be the last showing this year on the mountain carving of the “Legends in Light” laser-light show at 7:30.