BAR HARBOR, Maine — For decades, the second Monday in October has been a day for schools and businesses to close down. It used to be celebrated for Christopher Columbus and his 'discovering of America'.
Maine has gone a different way in celebrating this holiday. For the first time, the state will celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, using the day as a chance to learn and appreciate the history and culture of Maine's first settlers.
Today, you can learn more about Maine's first people at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor. A museum dedicated to the art, culture, language, and history of the Wabanaki people.
The museum offered free admission to honor the first of its kind holiday. Not only today, but everyday, the museum offers an ideal destination for not only home-grown Mainers, but for its visitors as well.
“When people come to Maine, they’re looking to have a place-based experience. It goes so far beyond the 200 years of Maine history. There’s over 12,000 years of Wabanaki history," Angela Ruap, the manager of guest experience said.
When it came to changing the name of the holiday, it was an easy decision in the eyes of Ruap.
“The change from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day isn’t the right choice, it’s the only choice," she said.
The culture and history of all indigenous people, not just those from Maine, is celebrated today -- even by Amanda Davis, visiting Bar Harbor from her home country of Wales. She noticed similarities between America and Wales and their appreciation of their native people.
“It’s very much keeping our own culture alive, (like in America), to keep the language going, to keep the culture going, to keep the inheritance going, and keep the history going," Davis said.
Ruap believes it is important for people to continue the celebration of indigenous people, even after the holiday.
“Learning the history, learning the people, but also, taking an active step to engage with indigenous people to extend a hand and start building relationships," she added.
To help bridge the rest of the nation in changing the longstanding celebration of Columbus Day, Ruap believes it starts with the individual.
“Find out the social issues that are impacting them, find out how you can contribute, how you can be a better ally to indigenous people," she said.
Abbe Museum is open everyday from 10am-5pm.