Senator BRIAN P. STACK
District 33 (Hudson)
Replaces Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day as public holiday.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day and amending various sections of statutory law.
Whereas, Indigenous Peoples’ Day was first proposed in 1977 by a delegation of Native Americans to the United Nations International Conference on Discrimination against Indigenous Populations in the Americas and serves as a way to honor and recognize the unique contributions made by indigenous people to our nation; and
Whereas, South Dakota became the first state to officially recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1990 with hundreds of municipalities and 14 states now observing the day each year; and
Whereas, Some of these jurisdictions have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day while others observe it in addition to Columbus Day; and
Whereas, A majority of states, along with the federal government, continue to recognize Columbus Day each year on the second Monday of October; and
Whereas, Columbus Day remains a public holiday in New Jersey; and
Whereas, The City of Newark became the first municipality in New Jersey to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2017 while Princeton became the second to do so in 2019; and
Whereas, Although at one time a widely celebrated figure of American history, Christopher Columbus’s legacy has become controversial as his harsh treatment of indigenous people has become more widely known; and
Whereas, In his voyages to the New World, Columbus and his men inflicted violence on the indigenous people of the Caribbean while inadvertently bringing many new diseases that decimated native populations; and
Whereas, For some, Columbus has come to signify the beginning of European colonization and conquest of the Americas; and
Whereas, Prior to arrival of the Europeans, the area now known as New Jersey was first settled over 10,000 years ago by the Lenape, a confederation of Algonquian-speaking people whose lands also included present-day Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York; and
Whereas, Over time, Lenape tribal lands were lost as a result of European settlement and the Lenape soon found themselves moving westward to Ohio, Indiana, and Kansas before eventually being removed to Oklahoma in the late-1860s; and
Whereas, Along the way, the Lenape faced cultural suppression, forced assimilation, and devastation of their population through the spread of disease; and
Whereas, Currently, three indigenous tribes are recognized in the State: the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape of Cumberland and Salem Counties, the Powhatan Renape of Burlington County, and the Ramapough Lenape of Mahwah and Ringwood; and
Whereas, Nearly 20,000 New Jerseyans belong to one of these tribes while 50,000 more belong to tribes recognized in other jurisdictions; and
Whereas, The legacy of indigenous people continues to live on here in New Jersey as many cities and towns throughout our State bear names derived from native languages such as Weehauken, Hopatcong, Totowa, Watchung, Hackensack, Manasquan, and Pennsauken, among many others; and
Whereas, Despite these reminders of our State’s indigenous past, this part of our history and culture remains overlooked and underappreciated as annual observances of Columbus Day do not sufficiently acknowledge the plight of indigenous people and celebrate their contributions to our society; and
Whereas, In recognition of New Jersey’s indigenous heritage and to foster a greater sense of inclusivity toward indigenous people, it is fitting and proper to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day; now, therefore,
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. Section 25 of P.L.2008, c.89 (C.11A:6-24.1) is amended to read as follows
25. a. Paid holidays granted to all State government employees each calendar year shall be limited to the following:
(1) January 1, known as New Year's Day;
(2) the third Monday in January, known as Martin Luther King's Birthday;
(3) the third Monday in February, known as Washington's Birthday, which shall be known and celebrated as Presidents Day in this State;
(4) the day designated and known as Good Friday;
(5) the last Monday in May, known as Memorial Day;
(6) July 4, known as Independence Day;
(7) the first Monday in September, known as Labor Day;
(8) the second Monday in October, known as [Columbus Day] Indigenous Peoples’ Day;
(9) November 11, known as Armistice Day or Veterans' Day;
(10) the fourth Thursday in November, known as Thanksgiving Day;
(11) December 25, known as Christmas Day; and
(12) any general election day in this State.
b. The provisions of this section shall not impair any collective bargaining agreement or contract in effect on the effective date of P.L.2008, c.89. The provision of this section shall take effect in the calendar year following the expiration of the collective bargaining agreements or contracts covering a majority of the Executive Branch employees in effect on the effective date of P.L.2008, c.89.
(cf: P.L.2008, c.89, s.25)
2. N.J.S.18A:36-13 is amended to read as follows:
18A:36-13. Appropriate exercises for the development of a higher spirit of patriotism shall be held in all public schools on the last school day preceding Washington's Birthday (also celebrated as President's Day), Decoration or Memorial Day, [Columbus Day] Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and Veterans Day.
(cf: P.L.2007, c.42, s.7)
3. R.S.36:1-1 is amended to read as follows:
36:1-1. a. The following days in each year shall, for all purposes whatsoever as regards the presenting for payment or acceptance, and of the protesting and giving notice of dishonor, of bills of exchange, bank checks and promissory notes be treated and considered as the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday, and as public holidays, except as provided under subsection d. of this section: January 1, known as New Year's Day; the third Monday in January, known as Martin Luther King's Birthday; February 12, known as Lincoln's Birthday; the third Monday in February, known as Washington's Birthday; the day designated and known as Good Friday; the last Monday in May, known as Memorial Day; July 4, known as Independence Day; the first Monday in September, known as Labor Day; the second Monday in October, known as [Columbus Day] Indigenous Peoples’ Day; November 11, known as Armistice Day or Veterans' Day; the fourth Thursday in November, known as Thanksgiving Day; December 25, known as Christmas Day; any general election day in this State; every Saturday; and any day heretofore or hereafter appointed, ordered or recommended by the Governor of this State, or the President of the United States, as a day of fasting and prayer, or other religious observance, or as a bank holiday or holidays. All such bills, checks and notes, otherwise presentable for acceptance or payment on any of the days herein enumerated, shall be deemed to be payable and be presentable for acceptance or payment on the secular or business day next succeeding any such holiday.
b. Whenever any of the days herein enumerated can and shall fall on a Sunday, the Monday next following shall, for any of the purposes herein enumerated be deemed a public holiday, except as provided under subsection d. of this section; and bills of exchange, checks and promissory notes which otherwise would be presentable for acceptance or payment on such Monday shall be deemed to be presentable for acceptance or payment on the secular or business day next succeeding such holiday.
c. In construing this section, every Saturday shall, until 12 o'clock noon, be deemed a secular or business day, except as is hereinbefore provided in regard to bills of exchange, bank checks and promissory notes, and the days herein enumerated except bank holidays and Saturdays shall be considered as the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday, and public holidays, for all purposes whatsoever as regards the transaction of business in the public offices of this State, or counties of this State, except as provided under subsection d. of this section; but on all other days or half days, except Sunday or as otherwise provided by law, such offices shall be kept open for the transaction of business.
d. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections a. through c. of this section, when the provisions of this subsection take effect, the following day each calendar year shall not be considered a public holiday for the purposes of conducting State government business:
February 12, known as Lincoln's Birthday.
All public offices of State government in this State shall be open on this day for the transaction of business.
(cf: P.L.2008, c.89, s.26)
4. This act shall take effect immediately.
This bill would replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day to honor New Jersey’s indigenous heritage and to foster a greater sense of inclusiveness towards indigenous people. The legacy of Christopher Columbus has become more controversial as his harsh treatment of indigenous people has become more widely known. An increasing number of Americans have come to recognize Columbus’s journeys into the New World as the beginning of an era of European colonization and conquest. In response, many states and municipalities have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day to bring greater attention to the plight of indigenous people and to celebrate indigenous cultures.
Although two municipalities in New Jersey recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Columbus Day remains a public holiday. This bill would amend the list of paid holidays granted to State employees, the list of holidays for which schools are required to conduct patriotic activities, and the list of recognized legal holidays, to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
By setting aside a day to celebrate the history and culture of indigenous people, we can begin the long overdue process of acknowledging an overlooked and underappreciated part of our State’s population.