OBERLIN, Ohio — A small Ohio town is within reach of abolishing Columbus Day and replacing it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
If it passes, the controversial name change would take effect, making Oberlin the first city in Ohio to make the switch.
City Councilman Bryan Burgess said the change had been “a long time coming” and that council is in unanimous agreement, cleveland.com reports.
But to millions of Americans of Italian descent, the holiday has come to signify more than the Italian explorer’s discovery.
Each October (which coincidentally is Italian American Heritage Month), Italian Americans rally together at Columbus Day parades across the nation, celebrating their history, traditions and values as a culture.
Oberlin now joins a handful of cities — both big and small — throughout the U.S. that have proposed a rededication of the holiday.
Since Columbus Day 2015, at least 14 communities in the United States have passed measures designating the second Monday in October Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The changes build on recent efforts to shift the day’s focus from the Italian explorer, beginning in big cities including Seattle, Minneapolis and Albuquerque, and spreading to counties and school districts.
Many Italian organizations, including Italian Sons and Daughters of America, support the idea of establishing an Indigenous People’s Day, yet insist it need not be done at the expense of the Columbus Day holiday.
ISDA President Basil Russo noted in an online editorial that Columbus Day is a day when “not only Italian Americans, but all Americans, can acknowledge the sacrifices that immigrants of every race and nationality have made to make our country great.”
Actively fighting Monday’s pending change in Oberlin is José Gueits, a historical researcher from Orlando, Florida.
“The history of the suffering of the Indigenous Peoples throughout the world is a dreadful and well recognized one, to which reconciliation should involve more than just a holiday naming gesture,” said Gueits in a letter to the Oberlin City Council. “However, with respect to the community of Oberlin, it is a very hard stretch for anyone in your city to insinuate in front of the council that the narrative of Columbus had anything to do with the history of dreadful conditions the Indigenous in Oberlin and the United States have suffered up to today.”
If you would like to lend your voice to ours in the preservation of Columbus Day, click here to let us know what the national holiday means to you and your family. ISDA will make your support known to Oberlin City Council.
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