County to No Longer Observe Columbus Day

October 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday became the latest municipal body to drop Christopher Columbus from favored status, voting to eliminate all references to Columbus Day as a county holiday.

Supervisors have decided to instead designate Oct. 12 as Italian American Heritage Day and to create a new Indigenous Peoples Day, to be held on the second Monday of October, beginning no later than 2019.

Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl co-authored the motion.

“This action is about publicly recognizing that America’s ancestors, for centuries, oppressed certain minority groups,” Solis said.

Many speakers were emotional, recalling a history of genocide. Others said honoring Columbus served to distort what their children learn in school.

“There are a lot of generations of hurt,” Supervisor Janice Hahn said.

Solis said the change would not mean forgetting what Columbus had done, but would lead to a fuller understanding.

“This is not about erasing history,” Solis said. “I believe the full history and impact of Christopher Columbus should be taught to current and future generations. While we cannot change the past, we can realize the pain that millions suffered throughout our nation’s history, as well as the tremendous achievements of the original inhabitants of our continent.”

Columbus, long celebrated for his discovery of America, never actually set foot on North American soil. He landed instead in the Caribbean, where he was said to have committed atrocities against the native island people he found there.

Solis said the motion amounted to restorative justice. She pointed to the contributions of Native Americans to agriculture, medicine, music, language and art, while also noting that they suffer some of the highest percentages of depression, incarceration and infant mortality and have a lower life expectancy than other Americans.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger voted against the motion without comment.

As a result of the 4-1 vote, the board will also urge Los Angeles Unified School District officials to take similar action.

The Los Angeles City Council voted in August to eliminate Columbus Day from city calendars. Several states no longer recognize Columbus Day.

Councilman Calls for ‘Indigenous Peoples Day’

November 13, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A city councilman called today for the creation of an Indigenous Peoples Day in Los Angeles, but stopped short of saying he wants the holiday to replace Columbus Day.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who is part Native American, introduced a motion today to look into setting aside a day each year to recognize the history, culture and achievements of indigenous peoples.

The holiday is part of a wider movement around the country to replace Columbus Day, which falls on the second Mondays of October, with a day focused on Native Americans instead. Columbus Day is a federal holiday observed in honor of Christopher Columbus, who is popularly credited with discovering the Americas. Critics of the holiday have pointed out that millions of people were already living on the American continents when he landed, and that his arrival eventually led to many of those people being enslaved or their populations thinned.

Berkeley, Denver, Seattle, Anchorage, Portland and Albuquerque have already stopped observing Columbus Day and replaced it with Indigenous Peoples Day, according to a release from O’Farrell’s office.

But O’Farrell told City News Service today that while he has made it “pretty clear I’m not a fan of Columbus Day,” he is “open to all options” for the timing of Indigenous Peoples Day in Los Angeles.

Speaking at a City Hall luncheon event celebrating Native American Heritage Month earlier today, O’Farrell called the observance of Columbus Day a “travesty,” while Native Americans have historically been “devalued.”

O’Farrell, whose father is Irish American and his mother a member of the Wyandotte Nation tribe, said he grew up hearing teachers describing Columbus as a “great man.” But over the years, it has become “less acceptable to really even mention his name in a positive light,” he said.

The reasons for wanting to establish Indigenous People’s Day “is based on the folly of celebrating a man who brought nothing but catastrophe for native peoples when he first arrived in the new world,” O’Farrell told City News Service.

While O’Farrell was strongly critical of Columbus Day, he would not say if he supports abolishing it in Los Angeles.

His motion only calls for the City Administrative Officer to report back on creating the holiday, and asks the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission to report on the “historical importance and cultural impact” of establishing a “legal city holiday” recognizing indigenous peoples, and does not suggest the annual observance day.

The idea of abolishing Columbus Day faces some resistance from O’Farrell’s colleagues. Councilman Joe Buscaino, who is Italian American, released a statement saying that for families like his, “who immigrated to the United States, Columbus Day celebrates a commitment to cross an ocean and a border and start a new life in the new world.”

O’Farrell told City News Service that he is aware that some Italian Americans may have attachments to the holiday, but there are other better ways to celebrate Italian culture, arts, food and contributions.

“There is a complete disconnect and separation from any of that to Christopher Columbus,” he said.

For some Native Americans who attended the City Hall heritage month event, the holiday would bring more attention to a population that is often ignored, while Navajo tribe member Glenn Talley noted that a day like an Indigenous Peoples Day would “straighten out some of the issues of the past.”

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