Preserving tradition: Columbus Day vs. decolonization
The recent decisions by Groton’s Town Council and RTM replacing Columbus Day with Italian Heritage/Indigenous Peoples' Day raise important questions about rewriting history. While these elected officials have positive intentions, their compromise is flawed. Renaming Columbus Day as Italian Heritage Day erroneously redefines Columbus Day as a niche, Italian American holiday. Like Independence Day, Columbus Day commemorates American triumphs, as proclaimed by President Benjamin Harrison in 1892, stating Columbus Day is, “a general holiday for the people of the United States. On that day let the people. . . best express honor to the discoverer and their appreciation of the great achievements of the four completed centuries of American life.”
Desiring a new national identity, Italian immigrants offered gratitude to God and Country on Columbus Day as Americans. Combining the two holidays dilutes the cultural significance of both groups in the broader context of American history. Without significant Native American events in October, recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of Columbus Day makes it a decolonization and victimization holiday, rather than a celebration of cultural heritage and achievement. Instead, honor “The International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples" on Aug. 9, in solidarity with nations around the world, while maintaining Columbus Day.
Matthew Guarnieri, President, Italian-American Defense League
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