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Push for Indigenous Peoples Day comes on Italian American Heritage Day, Columbus Day

Push for Indigenous Peoples Day comes on Italian American Heritage Day, Columbus Day
Push for Indigenous Peoples Day comes on Italian American Heritage Day, Columbus Day 02:22

By Courtney Cole, WBZ-TV

BOSTON -- The second Monday of every October is one that is both celebratory and controversial. More than 80 years ago, President Roosevelt declared Christopher Columbus Day a national holiday.

But there's still a push by the Indigenous Community for this day to be recognized -- on the state and federal level -- as Indigenous Peoples Day instead. 

Last year, Acting Mayor Kim Janey signed an Executive Order, declaring the second Monday in October, Indigenous Peoples Day in Boston.

This year, over the weekend, Mayor Michelle Wu declared Monday, October 10, Italian American Heritage Day; President Biden also made a proclamation for Columbus Day as well.

The Italian American Alliance and The Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag both independently want their legacy and contributions to be recognized, but they can't agree on the date.

At the Tall Ship in East Boston, Monday's sights and sounds marked the first annual Italian American Cultural Celebration held by The Italian American Alliance.

"My friends and I--we just wanted to make sure we were here to show support. First of all, we're all Italian, so we just wanted to make sure the support for the Italian community, here," said Roberta, one of the attendees of the event.

"We're here because this country would not probably exist if it wasn't for exploration, and the conviction, and courage of a navigator called Christopher Columbus," said Tom Damigella of The Italian American Alliance.

Although history tells us millions of people were in the Americas before Columbus, Damigella said Monday's event was also about supporting the culture and heritage of Italians.

"We all have an opportunity to recognize our legacy and heritage. There's no reason why there should be a conflict between people," Damigella said. 

Elizabeth Solomon, a member of The Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag said it's important that Indigenous people receive recognition.  

"Indigenous people have been here for thousands of years. In the Boston area, we've been here for 10,000 years. Really, there's been very little recognition either of Indigenous people and what we have done in terms of the building of this country," Solomon said outside of The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

The museum collaborated with The Massachusett Tribe, to share the voices of local Indigenous artists.

"The reason that we have pushed for Indigenous Peoples' Day, on what was originally called Columbus Day, is the role that Columbus has had in the genocide of many indigenous peoples. And so it's very, very important to us that Columbus Day, not be Columbus Day and that it be Indigenous Peoples' Day," Solomon said.

She said it would be a way to correct history. 

"Even though it's our own home, often we don't feel we have a place. We are still here." 

Solomon told WBZ-TV there are a number of towns and cities in Massachusetts that have independently decided to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday in October.

However, in terms of movement on a larger scale, Solomon said, "There's a number of bills in the Mass. State Legislature that didn't make it through the session. But there's a whole Indigenous agenda and one of them is about Indigenous Peoples' Day." 

Damigella said, "What they don't understand about a hero, like Christopher Columbus, they don't really understand it. They're using today's values and what goes on in the present, to judge our history of 600 years ago, 500 years ago. My only advice to anyone: don't do that." 

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