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We the People

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Politics and civil commentary with community columnist John Eyster.

John W. Eyster: What's the dual significance of October 9?

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By John W. Eyster
Friday, October 6, 2017

Next Monday, October 9 is a SPECIAL DAY because it is the LEGAL FEDERAL HOLIDAY: Columbus Day AND the FEDERAL OBSERVANCE: Leif Erikson Day which will be proclaimed by the President of the U.S. as required by U.S. Law. At the same time, in WI, schools are required by State Law to Observe Leif Erikson Day on Monday, October 9. The Observance of Columbus Day is to be on the original date of the holiday. That'll be Thursday, October 12, this year.

The WI Department of Public Instruction notes in its background, “Wisconsin's 21 special observance days are part of state statutes governing general school operations (Wis. Stat. sec. 118.02). Federal law has moved the celebration of many legal holidays to Monday, however, state law recommends that each Wisconsin Special Observance Day be held on the day itself. When an observance day falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it should be observed on the preceding Friday or the following Monday.”

The Gazette gave a “Thumbs Down” last Monday, October 2 asserting that Columbus Day needs to be kept among the WI School Observance Days. I was surprised that the Gazette did NOT identify Columbus Day as more than a WI Observance Day, it is actually a LEGAL FEDERAL HOLIDAY on the 2nd Monday of October to provide federal employees with a paid day-off work with the law passed in 1968. In WI, the School Observance should be held until Thursday, October 12.

I've previously advocated that we should change the federal holiday to “Explorers' Day” recognizing the whole list of persons who explored to discover and explore North America, including Leif Erikson and Christopher Columbus. What do YOU think?

IF there is to be such a HOLIDAY with an explorer's name on it, I think that name should be LEIF ERIKSSON. He was the explorer who FIRST discovered NORTH AMERICA. Consider the information provided by Wikipedia's feature article, “Leif Erikson.” NOTE: The “k” is the CORRECT letter in the Scandinavian languages (Norwegian, Swedish, Danish) while the “c” is the Anglicization of the word. If you want to know more about how “Columbus Day” became a US FEDERAL HOLIDAY, you will want to read Wikipedia's feature article, “Columbus Day.”

LEIF ERICSON DAY on October 9 and CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS DAY on October 12 are 2 of the 21 legally required "Observance Days" in WI.

Here are the DPI notes for these 2 Observance Days:

LEIF ERIKSON DAY - Wisconsin public school observance day required by statute. Leif Erikson was born in Iceland and raised in Greenland. Norse sagas written 300 years after his death describe his explorations, around 1000 CE, of a land he called "Vinland." The location of Vinland remains uncertain, but it is widely believed to be on the North American continent.

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS DAY - Wisconsin public school observance day required by statute. The first expedition led by Christopher Columbus sighted land somewhere in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492. Columbus' voyages are recognized as the start of sustained contact between peoples in the eastern and western hemispheres. The process of colonization that he began brought new forms of wealth to Europe, expanded the market for African slaves, and led to loss of land and lifeways for the indigenous peoples of the Americas. The federal holiday, Discoverers' Day, is celebrated the second Monday in October.

You can read the whole list and get the basic description as to why each day has been made a legally required "Observance Day" by reading the WI Department of Public Instruction's Observation Days List.

NOTING that you and I all learned about the MANY EXPLORERS involved in discovering and exploring NORTH AMERICA, I really do believe that this 3rd Monday of October should be changed to “EXPLORERS' DAY.” Would YOU agree?

Both LEIF ERIKSON and CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS are among the EXPLORERS we ought to be celebrating. Consider the amazing Wikipedia list identifying world explorers, including Leif Ericson and Christopher Columbus (Footnote: Cristoforo Colombo), “List of explorers.”

FOR NOW, I'll Observe “LEIF ERIKSON DAY” on Monday, 10/9 and I'll continue to celebrate the REAL COLUMBUS DAY on Thursday, 12th of October.


John W. Eyster lives in the Edgerton area. He is an adjunct professor assigned with the online/distance education faculty of Viterbo University, LaCrosse. He continues his personal mission supporting democracy/civics education in Wisconsin K-12 schools through Project Citizen, We the People, Discovering Democracy (Milton HS). John is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff or management.


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