Chicago’s Columbus Day Controversy Fuels Decades-old Debate

Columbus’s journey launched 500 years of immigration, attracting peoples from throughout the world seeking a better life for their families — this is the spirit we champion and seek to preserve.

In the wake of the Chicago Public Schools decision to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she had no plans to abolish the navigator’s holiday at the city level.

“I do think we’ve got a lot more to do to make sure that we are aware and sensitive of the history, but I absolutely have no plans to support any elimination of Columbus Day,” the mayor said at a news conference on Friday.

Nicholas Sposato, who serves on the Chicago City Council as alderman of the 38th Ward, appeared on PBS on Monday and said he planned to reach out to Indigenous Peoples groups in the Chicago area in the hopes of starting a dialogue.

The Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans also said it was mounting a campaign to reverse the Chicago school board’s action on behalf of the 500,000 Italian Americans in the Chicago area.

ISDA supports both Sposato and the committee in their pursuit to protect the holiday that honors our heritage in America.

Our Stance

The Italian-American community has always supported the designation of an Indigenous Peoples Day as it is most rightly and most justly deserved. We respectfully suggest the day after Thanksgiving, or August 9th (the day the United Nations has designated as Indigenous Peoples Day throughout the world) to be considered as alternate options.

What we don’t support is the agenda among those who want to rewrite history, and in the process, diminish and distort our traditions by targeting Columbus Day.

A tradition of pride and unity

Columbus Day has become synonymous with Italian Heritage Day, the day when Italian Americans remember the sacrifices made by their parents and grandparents, and the contributions Italian Americans have made in the U.S.

The time-honored Columbus Day parades actually began in the late 1800s as Italian immigrants attempted to create a sense of self-esteem and dignity during a period where they were subjected to lynchings, bigotry and prejudice throughout the country.

A movement forward

Columbus’s journey launched 500 years of immigration to America, attracting peoples from throughout the world seeking a better life for their families — this is the spirit we champion and are fighting to preserve.

And this is why we urge the Chicago school board, handpicked by Mayor Lightfoot, to reverse its decision.


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