Columbus Day: Celebrating history - all of it

Tricia Pearson
October 10, 2017

On Monday, some will honor their Italian-American culture, but others are asking for Christopher Columbus statues to be taken down.

He said: 'The conversation is Columbus.

Among the things historians have learned about Columbus: He enslaved many West Indies natives, seizing six of them the first day he hit land in 1492 to make them his servants.

Accusations by some historians that the Italian explorer opened the Americas to enslavement, genocide and "cultural destruction" have led some USA cities to cancel local Columbus Day parades and other commemorations and rename the holiday Indigenous Peoples' Day.

While many schoolchildren learn about the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, less appealing details of Columbus' journeys include the enslavement of Native Americans and the spread of deadly diseases. Italian-American businessman and newspaper owner Generoso Pope was among those who worked to get Columbus Day recognized as a federal holiday in 1937.

Trump's proclamation stands in stark contrast to Obama-era statements that used the day as an opportunity to open dialogue about both the positive and negative externalities of Columbus' discovery. "I believe in the contribution Italian-Americans have made, just as I believe in celebrating the Caribbean and the Israel day parade".

At the end of the 1800s, Italians began to link themselves more with Columbus. Only 29 percent said they think it is a "bad idea", while 15 percent remained undecided.

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The Austin, Texas, City Council voted Thursday to drop Columbus Day and celebrate "Indigenous Peoples Day" instead.

President Trump apparently disagreed with Obama's contention that it is a history we must recognize.

But the gesture to recognize victims of European colonialism has also outraged Italian-Americans.

The group Indigenous Peoples Day Massachusetts has a statewide campaign to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with a day to honor native people from throughout the Americas. President Richard Nixon established it as a federal holiday in 1972, and today it's celebrated every year on the second Monday of October.

Detroit City Councilwoman Raquel Castañeda-López will introduce a resolution at Tuesday's council meeting to change Columbus Day in Detroit to Indigenous Peoples Day. Meanwhile, op-eds and letters to the editor register Indigenous people's objections to Columbus as worthy of commemoration.

"Columbus should not be celebrated".

Parade spectator Rose Bove, 57, is adamantly against changing the name of the day or taking down the statue.

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