The late Gov. George S. Mickelson proposed that South Dakota change Columbus Day to Native American Day in 1989 as part of a Year of Reconciliation. In 1990, the legislature unanimously approved the change.
Mark Mickelson, the son of the governor, said making the change was important to his father.
"He spent his life in South Dakota and he knew the Native American population was a significant part of the state," Mickelson said by phone from Sioux Falls. "It was a way to let them know he was serious about reconciliation. I can't speak for my father, but I think he felt we can't do anything about the past, but we can work for a better future."
South Dakota is the only state which celebrates Native American Day in place of Columbus Day. Several communities in California, such as Berkeley, have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People's Day, but the state of California still honors the Italian explorer. California has a Native American Day, but it is in September.
Alaska and Hawaii do not celebrate Columbus Day. Alaska does not have Native American Day while Hawaii has Explorer's Day which honors the Polynesian explorers who discovered the islands.
Mickelson, an attorney who owns Mickelson and Company in Sioux Falls, said that his father didn't add a holiday, he just proposed a change
"Good for him and good for the legislature for passing it," he said.