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L.A. City Council To Consider Replacing Columbus Day With Indigenous Peoples Day

Representing the Tongva tribe at the 228th Celebration of Los Angeles (Photo by La Angelena via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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The Los Angeles City Council will today consider the city's Human Relations Commission's suggestion to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. As you probably guessed, this day would celebrate Native Americans, who were already here when Italian explorer Christopher Columbus popped by in 1492 and "discovered" it. The Arts, Parks and Rivers committee will be the first to discuss the proposal, and will do so today at 11 a.m., according to City News Service. The proposal comes via Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, who is a member of the Wyandotte Native American Tribe, according to the L.A. Times. Back in March, when he first proposed the idea, he said, "I know in my heart of hearts now is the time to have a conversation about the creation of Indigenous Peoples Day in Los Angeles."

On a timeline, however, L.A. would be behind several other cities. The discussion began at the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas in Switzerland back in 1977. Berkeley was the first U.S. city to make the switch in 1992. The state of Vermont and several other cities, including Denver, Portland, Albuquerque, and Phoenix have all since followed suit.

Opposed to the idea is Joe Buscaino, who is Italian American. Some Italian American groups have said that Columbus Day is integral to their culture, and are opposed to losing the holiday altogether.

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Ann Potenza of Federated Italo-Americans of Southern California, argued that Columbus represented the "voyage of discovery, which is what our community of America is based on."

"Columbus Day is for the immigrants and to celebrate what was brought here and the Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples should have a day, because they are the ones who started here," she said.

Update: Councilman O'Farrell has provided LAist with the following statement:

Recognizing the contributions, history, and sacrifices made by the original inhabitants of the Los Angeles area is long overdue. Celebrating Columbus Day is becoming ever more dubious as there is a greater awareness of the well documented history of the misery he set in motion across the Americas, from the time he set foot on the shores of what is now Hispaniola in 1492. We need to remember that he conquered the native population and returned to Europe with several hundred as slaves. The Spanish missionaries followed, decimating California native Tribes to the point of extinction in some cases. It is time to reflect on the legacy of these actions and create a permanent tribute to the people who made it possible for the rest of us to make a life for ourselves on the lands that the original inhabitants were so mercilessly removed from.