LA City Council Changes Columbus Day to ‘Indigenous Peoples Day’

Statue of Christopher Columbus at Columbus Circle in front of Union Station in Washington, DC. / Getty Images

Statue of Christopher Columbus at Columbus Circle in front of Union Station in Washington, DC. / Getty Images

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The Los Angeles City Council voted on Wednesday to change the name of the holiday Columbus Day to "Indigenous Peoples Day."

The new locally observed holiday will celebrate "indigenous, aboriginal, and native people." The change was approved by the council with a 14-1 vote, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Activists who pushed for the change argued the explorer was a symbol of genocide for native peoples in North America and elsewhere.

The federal holiday Columbus Day celebrates the anniversary of the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas on Oct. 12, 1492. It is observed in the United States on the second Monday in October annually. Columbus Day is also celebrated in many Latin American countries, Italy, and Spain.

A group of Italian-Americans objected to the change, and asked for Indigenous Peoples Day to be designated on a different day rather than the city eliminating recognition of Columbus Day.

Ann Potenza, president of Federated Italo-Americans of Southern California, argued on behalf of those individuals Wednesday. She spoke to a room packed with Native American activists.

"On behalf of the Italian community, we want to celebrate with you," Potenza said. "We just don't want it to be at the expense of Columbus Day."

Potenza received some support from local lawmakers.  Councilman Joe Buscaino, a first-generation Italian American who was raised in Los Angeles, pushed to rename Columbus Day with a name that celebrates "all of the diverse cultures in the city," and identify an alternative day to designate Indigenous Peoples Day.

Councilman Mike Bonin, the great-grandson of Italian immigrants, disagreed with Buscaino.

"This gesture of replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day is a very small step in apologizing and in making amends," Bonin said.

The vice chairwoman of the Los Angeles City-County Native American Indian Commission, Chrissie Castro, said the change was necessary to "dismantle a state-sponsored celebration of genocide of indigenous peoples."

"To make us celebrate on any other day would be a further injustice," Castro said.

The Los Angeles decision follows several U.S. cities, including Seattle, Albuquerque, and Denver, that have already replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. Monuments of the explorer in other U.S. cities have also been criticized. Statues in New York City and Baltimore have recently been vandalized, and the Christopher Columbus Memorial Fountain in Washington, D.C. was vandalized back in 2002.

Jack Heretik

Jack Heretik   Email Jack | Full Bio | RSS
Jack is a Media Analyst for the Washington Free Beacon. He is from Northern Ohio and graduated from the Catholic University of America in 2011. Prior to joining the Free Beacon, Jack was a Production Assistant for EWTN's The World Over and worked on Sen. Bill Cassidy's 2014 campaign.

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