Italian Americans for Indigenous Peoples Day was formed in solidarity with Native peoples across Massachusetts who are advocating for the passage of legislation that would rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day in the Commonwealth. We believe 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, were widely reviled and considered racially inferior.
We have so much. We don’t need Columbus Day.
Despite profound discrimination, economic exploitation, and even violence, our ancestors successfully assimilated into mainstream American culture while also safeguarding our traditions and family bonds. Because of their heroic efforts, 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. Our religious holidays are national holidays. We can turn on the television, pick up a book, or enter a voting booth and expect that our people will be represented.
The erasure of Indigenous peoples continues today.
While Italian Americans now enjoy recognition and status in this
country, 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.
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 sacrificed so much to make a place for us here, and we follow the example of the many Italian Americans who fought for labor rights, LGBTQ rights, gender equality, and human rights.
Help us build a coalition of Italian Americans for Indigenous Peoples Day!
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 that rightfully honor this land’s First Peoples in place of Christopher Columbus.