A measure being introduced in Akron City Council next month could remove the federal Columbus Day holiday and replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrates the Native Americans who were here when Christopher Columbus landed in the New World in 1492. City Councilman Russ Neal is proposing a switch to Indigenous Peoples Day, citing the atrocities committed by European explorers.
He adds that the move is not meant to slight Italian-Americans, because Columbus Day is focused on the man and not specifically on his heritage.
“The day is named after an individual,” Neal says. “So this is specifically named after an individual [and] the things that he did."
Columbus cut down its Columbus Day festivities after protests by Native American groups, who are now moving attention to statues of Christopher Columbus around the area. They say the celebrations are reminders of "the very base of rape and pillage and genocide" that marked the entrance of Europeans.
For Akron, Neal says he took some ideas from a proposal in Boston to replace Columbus Day. Boston already celebrates Italian Heritage throughout the month of October. He says there’s no reason Akron couldn’t do the same thing.
“In January, council as a whole passed the National Day of Racial Healing legislation, acknowledging that this country has a problem with racism, and that we need to address it [and] create open dialogue within our communities," Neal says.
The legislation will be introduced next month, which Neal says allows for a month of discussion and public comment. The announcement comes just days after the Oberlin City Council voted to replace Columbus Day.