Cities change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day














by Charlotte Mitchell 

At least four US cities are joining dozens of states and cities across the US that have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day as the tug of war between rival views of the country's history stretches on. 

The move by Austin, Texas, Salt Lake City, Utah and Los Angeles and San Luis, California comes as part of a growing movement to change Columbus Day - celebrated on the second Monday in October - to Indigenous Peoples' Day as a way to recognise the oppression of Native Americans and celebrate their contributions. 

"It's very important to get rid of Columbus Day, to get rid of any celebration of Columbus because he was not a hero," said Mahtowin Munro, the lead organiser for Indigenous Peoples' Day Massachusetts, an organisation campaigning to get statewide recognition. 

"We know for a fact that [Columbus] and his men killed, raped, enslaved thousands of Indigenous people. It also gives a completely wrong impression to say that Columbus 'discovered' America; as Indigenous people, we often say that he invaded America," Munro told Al Jazeera.

"We were not sitting here waiting to be discovered by anybody."

In addition to the city of Los Angeles, LA County has also passed a resolution this year that will replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day. 

Hilda Solis, who authored the LA County motion, slated to take effect in 2019, saw the change as a way to acknowledge the contributions of Native Americans.

"It's never too late to do the right thing," Solis told Al Jazeera.

"My action was about publicly recognising our true and complete history: that America's ancestors, for centuries, oppressed certain minority groups," she added. 

"While we cannot change the past, we can realise and remember the pain that millions suffered throughout our nation's history. We can also recall the tremendous achievements of the original inhabitants of our continent."

Italian-American heritage 

Columbus Day, celebrated on the second Monday of October, was officially recognised in 1937 by President Franklin D Roosevelt.
He called Columbus a "brave navigator" and praised "the promise which Columbus' discovery gave to the world".

The day is celebrated most widely by the Italian-American community, which marked Columbus Day long before it became a national holiday, and sees Columbus as a cultural icon. 

In 2016, the Order Sons of Italy in America started a petition for an official capital luncheon and White House evening reception "in recognition and endorsement of Columbus Day and the contributions of the 25 million Americans of Italian descent".

The group said in the petition that the holiday "represents not only the accomplishments and contributions of Italian Americans but also the indelible spirit of risk, sacrifice and self-reliance of a great Italian icon that defines the United States of America."

Recognising Columbus' place in Italian-American culture, the motion passed in LA County also took steps to celebrate and recognise the "positive contributions of Italian-Americans to [US] culture".

"My motion also designates October 12 [the date of Columbus' landing in America] of each year as Italian American Heritage Day in the County of Los Angeles," Solis said.

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