The City Council of Cleveland, Ohio might have adopted a resolution to abolish Columbus Day if the Italian Americans of the region, especially in Little Italy, hadn’t made their voices heard.
The original resolution sought to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
However, the Italian American community was quick to resist, arguing the Italian explorer’s voyage and discovery had come to represent a vital part of their heritage.
So, thanks to a compromise, Cleveland’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day will coincide with International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on Aug. 9, which was created by the United Nations General Assembly in 1994.
Some cities across the country have already renamed or replaced Columbus Day altogether with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Yet, each October (during Italian American Heritage Month), Italian Americans rally together at Columbus Day parades across the nation, celebrating their history, traditions and values as a culture.
About 15,000 people flock to Cleveland’s Little Italy to celebrate Columbus Day each year.
Cleveland now joins a handful of cities — both big and small — throughout the U.S. that proposed a rededication of the holiday.
Many Italian organizations, including Italian Sons and Daughters of America, support the establishment of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, yet insist it need not be done at the expense of the Columbus Day tradition.
According to ISDA President Basil M. Russo — who helped facilitate the compromise in Cleveland — Italian immigrants began celebrating Columbus Day with parades in the late 1800s “in an effort to deal with the lynchings and prejudices they were confronted with, and in an effort to establish a sense of dignity and self-worth.”
Since its designation as an official holiday some 80 years ago, the Italian American community is now able to “collectively celebrate their culture, heritage and traditions by acknowledging the sacrifices, accomplishments and contributions their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents have made to our country,” Russo said.
In 2016, ISDA unanimously passed an internal resolution to dedicate more efforts and resources to support the preservation of Columbus Day throughout the 50 states, and this week — in Cleveland — that effort paid off.