Should Detroit change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day?

Posted at 11:57 AM, Oct 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-09 16:29:41-04

Is it time to say arrivederci to Christopher Columbus?

Detroit may be the next city to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day.

Four large U.S. cities, including recently, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, are joining dozens of cities and several states in renaming the federal holiday, which always falls on the second Monday of October.

Detroit City Councilwoman Raquel Castañeda-López will introduce a resolution at Tuesday’s council meeting to change Columbus Day in Detroit to Indigenous Peoples Day.

The resolution also supports the removal of the Columbus bust in Detroit, near the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.

A few months ago, a Southwest Detroit hip-hop and art group called The Raiz Up Collective, created a petition on Change.orgto take down the Detroit statue, arguing that Columbus did not "discover" America in 1492 but instead began the colonization of it.   The petition has about 1,600 signatures.

“The combination of rape, genocide, trans-Atlantic slave route and also the first importation of African American people to this land are all serious, serious, crimes that we shouldn’t be upholding, uplifting, supporting and honoring in public spaces,” said Antonio Rafael Cosme, a leader of The Raiz Up Collective.

Cosme told WXYZ he was the one who defaced the statue in 2015, putting an ax through Columbus’ forehead and painting it red.

Cosme said the group plans to address City Council Tuesday during the meeting.

However, the gesture to recognize indigenous people rather than the man who opened the Americas to European domination also has prompted howls of outrage from some Italian-Americans, who say eliminating their ethnic pride is culturally insensitive, too.

Sandra Tornberger, president of Italian American Cultural Society in Clinton Township said although the community doesn't’t condone all that was done when Columbus came to America, history shouldn't’t be rewritten.

“We’re judging something that happened in 1492 by today’s level of political correctness and the knowledge that we’ve gained in 600 years of humanity in learning – of evolving,” said Tornberger. “And again, Columbus Day is not only about Christopher Columbus, it’s a national holiday that celebrates Italian Americans.”

States and municipalities aren't legally bound to recognize federal holidays, though most do. Columbus Day is already one of the most inconsistently celebrated. Places that choose to replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day may give their own workers or schoolchildren a day off, teach in schools about Native Americans instead of Columbus, issue proclamations or mark it in other ways.

Leading up to the passage of the resolution, Wayne State's Native American community will host its 4th Annual Peace and Dignity Ceremony. The ceremony is an event held in response to Columbus Day, and it celebrates the survival of Native American communities in North, Central and South America. It will take place Monday, October 9 at 4 p.m. at the northwest entrance of the Purdy Kresge Library on Wayne State University's campus.