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Critics Not Happy With NYC Public Schools' Decision To Go With Italian-Heritage/Indigenous Peoples' Day On Holiday Calendar

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The legacy of Christopher Columbus has drawn scrutiny in recent years.

Many cities and states have renamed the second Monday in October to honor indigenous populations.

New York City Public Schools just wiped his name from the holiday calendar.

In its place is a day honoring the combination of Italian Heritage and Indigenous Peoples. But as CBS2's Alice Gainer reported Wednesday, critics say the the day shouldn't be shared.

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Statues of Columbus have toppled around the country. Racial justice advocates accuse him of genocide and exploitation of native peoples in the Americas.

Italian-American groups, however, say his contributions shouldn't be forgotten.

The public schools calendar removed his name altogether from its holiday list, first marking Oct. 11 as Indigenous People's Day and then later renaming it Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous Peoples' Day.

"This process wasn't handled right," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

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The mayor spoke of his own Italian heritage and said neither he nor the schools chancellor knew about the initial renaming.

"The end result is going to be a day to honor Italian-American heritage and a day to honor indigenous peoples. I think that's a good way forward," de Blasio said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is also Italian-American, disagrees.

"I support an indigenous peoples' holiday, but I also support Columbus Day," Cuomo said.

"Don't pit one group against another. Don't placate us with some fabricated holiday," said Andre Dimino, an executive board member of the Italian American One Voice Coalition. "For me, personally, it's very important because my grandparents and parents came here from Italy and when they got here this was not a great place for them and Columbus Day was a great way for them to enjoy being American because they were so proud to be patriotic Americans."

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Iakowi:He'ne' Oakes, the founding director of the North American Indigenous Center of New York, agrees.

"It shouldn't be shared," Oakes said, adding, "Why do we have to continually split down the middle and compromise when we ask for so little. It's a time to really acknowledge Native Americans from this land."

But she said this does represent change.

"It's also important for all the kids who have that day off knowing what that day now is," Oakes said.

The city's Department of Education released a statement that reads in part, " ... by including these holidays on our calendar, we are honoring the past, present, and future contributions of indigenous communities and Italian-Americans."

Oakes said this is a good start and hopes the conversation continues.

Cuomo said Columbus Day remains a state holiday.

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