LA changes Columbus Day to ‘Indigenous Peoples Day’ as statues continue to be destroyed
Members of the Los Angeles City Council voted 14-1 to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day on Wednesday. The day will remain a paid holiday for all city employees, but will not be officially renamed until 2019.
Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, a member of the Wyandotte Nation tribe who introduced the motion two years ago, said that by changing the name of the day, the city has established a “fitting holiday that we can all be proud of.”
“Today is a moment where we took a step that is righteous, that is just, that is healing, and that is historically clear,” O'Farrell said.
Councilman Joe Buscaino, a first-generation Italian-American, was the only opposition vote. He said the move would only serve to “cure one offense with another.”
“All of our individual cultures matter,” Buscaino said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Buscaino and three other council members attempted to establish a holiday for indigenous peoples on August 9, a date the United Nations recognizes as Indigenous Peoples Day. However, the council rejected the measure in an 11-4 vote on Wednesday.
The council also established ‘Italian-American Heritage Day,’ which will be observed on October 12, the date of Columbus’ arrival in America in 1492. It will not, however, be recognized as a paid holiday.
The vote came after council members heard arguments from a room filled with activists and protesters.
Chrissie Castro, vice chairwoman of the Los Angeles City-County Native American Indian Commission, said the city council needed 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, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Patrick Korten, a board member of the National Christopher Columbus Association, told KTTV that the city council made “a huge error” by blaming Columbus for the genocide of Native Americans.
“He bore no responsibility for it and as a matter of fact, if you do the slightest little bit of history on the man and read his diaries, and what was said about him following the years of the discovery, it is clear that Columbus personally had great affection for the indigenous people he encountered and went out of his way to order his men not to abuse them in any fashion,” Korten said.
Los Angeles joins San Francisco and Seattle, which have also replaced the holiday with Indigenous Peoples Day in previous years.
The measure was passed as several statues of the 15th-century explorer have been destroyed in recent weeks.
On Wednesday, a statue of Columbus was found beheaded in a park in New York City.
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio is considering ordering the removal of a landmark statue of the explorer that has stood in Columbus Circle since 1892. The statue was erected to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the explorer landing in the Americas.
After protests in Charlottesville, Virginia turned deadly over the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, De Blasio announced a “90-day review of all symbols of hate on city property.”
However, following a backlash from the community over his plans to remove the statue of Columbus, De Blasio said he would consider adding a plaque to the statue that would offer an explanation about the historical figure.
Last week, vandals destroyed the oldest statue of Columbus in the nation.
The 44-foot obelisk in Baltimore, Maryland was found with a sign leaning at the base that reads “Racism: Tear it down,” and another lying in the grass nearby that read “The future is racial and economic justice.”
In a video posted by the vandals, a person can be seen smashing the monument with a sledge hammer while another person explains why they are destroying the 225-year-old monument.
“Racist monuments to slave owners and murderers have always bothered me,” a narrator says in the video. “Baltimore’s poverty is concentrated in African-American households, and these statues are just an extra slap in the face. They were built in the 20th century in response to a movement for African Americans’ human dignity. What kind of a culture goes to such lengths to build such hate-filled monuments? What kind of a culture clings to those monuments in 2017?”