PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Sen. Kamala Harris told a crowd here Monday that she would push for the federal government to rename Columbus Day “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” a focal point for some progressives who say the holiday should emphasize the history of Native Americans instead of the European conqueror.
“Sign me up,” Harris said in response to a voter’s question of whether she would support the initiative to rename the holiday. She spoke of her own efforts in the Senate to make lynching a federal crime.
Harris, who officially launched her campaign for president last month in Oakland, drew an overflow crowd on her first town hall in New Hampshire, the site of the country’s first presidential primary. They spilled out of a church and into the snowy streets of Portsmouth to hear her deliver a campaign message of “speaking truth” and “fighting for justice,” a refrain that focuses in part on her past as a prosecutor and law enforcement official.
Harris also committed to passing a “new Voting Rights Act” that would make Election Day a federal holiday and emphasize same-day voter registration.
“I was impressed that she answered specific tough questions in the affirmative,” said Chip Noon, a real estate photographer from Durham, New Hampshire, who came to Harris’s event with his daughter, Jen Hess.
“I was expecting her to wiggle out of the question,” Hess said. “I think people are tired of that kind of thing. Our B.S. meter is pretty high.”
Harris’s competitor in the Democratic primary, Sen. Cory Booker, was asked the same question in New Hampshire Sunday but did not commit to renaming the holiday.
“I’d like to talk more about why you think it’s important on a federal level,” Booker told voters. “My commitment to you and indigenous peoples is to tell the truth, to work to address the issues, and to find a way to have real recognition and healing.”