ITALIAN AMERICANS FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY AND THE ITALIAN AMERICAN HERITAGE SOCIETY OF CHICAGO STRONLY CONDEMN PRESIDENT BIDEN’S 2022 COLUMBUS DAY PROCLAMATION.
As progressive Italian Americans and allies of Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island (North America), we express our collective dismay with President Joe Biden’s October 7, 2022 proclamation designating Monday, October 10, 2022 as Columbus Day in the United States. Indigenous Peoples Day – not Columbus Day – must stand alone as a federally recognized holiday on the second Monday of October. This is one small step Italian Americans – and the dominant culture as a whole – can take to begin repairing the harm caused to Indigenous peoples by centuries of oppression and erasure.
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Italian Americans for Indigenous Peoples Day was formed in solidarity with thousands of Native peoples from many tribal nations who live in Massachusetts who are working to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. We support proposed legislation in the Massachusetts House (H.3191) and Senate (S.2027) that, if passed, would designate the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day in the Commonwealth.
Italians for IPD believes that a holiday that celebrates the resilience of Indigenous peoples is far more truthful and uplifting than one that honors a man whose legacy is characterized by conquest, slavery, and genocide. Some Italian Americans assert that Columbus Day is at its core a celebration of our heritage, and that changing the name would be akin to erasing our history. We believe that any association with Christopher Columbus diminishes our culture and does not honor the struggles of our ancestors who, throughout the late 19th and much of the 20th century, endured profound religious and ethnic discrimination and violence.
The erasure of Indigenous peoples continues.
Today, Italian Americans enjoy recognition and status in this country, but these are not privileges afforded to Native peoples. Studies have shown that they are essentially invisible in our society. This perception is caused by racial stereotypes that dehumanize them; white Americans’ lack of interaction with them; biased history taught in schools (like Columbus “discovered” America); and insufficient curricula on past and present Indigenous cultures. For many Native peoples, the celebration of a man responsible for the genocide of their ancestors is another painful reminder of the ways in which they continue to be made invisible.
Italian Americans are celebrated in many ways.
Our ancestors assimilated into mainstream American culture while also safeguarding our traditions and family bonds. Italian Americans are now celebrated in this country. In Massachusetts, October is officially recognized as Italian American Heritage month. There are vibrant neighborhoods in cities across the country where we can go to be immersed in our ancestral food, language, and traditions. Christian holidays that most Italians observe are celebrated nationally and are part of the mainstream culture. We can turn on the television, pick up a book, or enter a voting booth and expect that our people will be represented.
We honor our ancestors by honoring Indigenous Peoples.
By observing Indigenous Peoples Day, we celebrate the diverse histories and cultures of this land’s First Peoples and their many contributions to modern society. We correct false histories, begin to make amends for past atrocities, and support Indigenous struggles for justice. We also honor our own ancestors who persevered in this country despite being victimized for their ethnicity. We feel a responsibility to use the platform our ancestors have given us to ensure that we are not repeating the same patterns of discrimination that they endured. In so doing, we follow the example of the many Italian Americans who have fought, and continue to fight, for civil and human rights for all.
We call on progressive Italian Americans to make their voices heard.
Native peoples have been advocating for the renaming of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day since the 1970s. It’s time that Massachusetts follow the example of Maine, Vermont, New Mexico, Alaska, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, and South Dakota – states that rightfully honor this land’s First Peoples in place of Christopher Columbus. Help us build a coalition of Italian Americans for Indigenous Peoples Day!