BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Monday marks a controversial holiday in Western New York honoring the man credited with discovering America. A growing national backlash against the observance of Columbus Day.
This Columbus Day kicked off with an act of vandalism on a local tribute to the explorer. A statue in Columbus park had a bag over its head and a message: “Columbus was a rapist.”
This isn’t the first time Western New Yorkers’ have been vocal about their feelings towards this holiday.
Just in the past year, support for the Native American Community has made change in Western New York. The controversial name of “Squaw Island Park” changed to Unity Island.
In the Lancaster School District, the “Red Skins” mascot was retired. Plus, this Columbus Day is called “Indigenous Peoples Day” in the Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District.
Michael Martin, Executive Director of Native American Community Services said, “This is an issue, recognizing the world perspectives that’s inclusive of everybody. Including the indigenous people of the world.”
Community groups rallied at the Army Corps Of Engineers’ to bring awareness to challenges facing Native Americans. Martin said, “Columbus was a father of slavery. He was a murderer.”
They want “Columbus Day” in Buffalo to be called “Indigenous Peoples Day” and plan on sending a petition to be presented in front of the Buffalo Common Council.
The group is also standing with the Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota. They’re fighting the proposed Dakota access pipeline they say will contaminate water and ruin sacred land.
Martin said, “I’m sure with our Italian American brothers and sisters we can find a much better symbol to honor the great history of Italian Americans.”
But the Federation of Italian American Societies of Western New York are celebrating Columbus’ bravery and courage this day.
They released this statement in part saying: “Any alleged defect in character is to be taken in a historical context, particularly in light of similar actions that transpired among others that lived during that time period. To do otherwise is pure, historical revision and something we refuse to become a part of.”
Now originally celebrating Columbus’ roots comes from Western New York. A Buffalo man started the national Columbus day committee in 1966, and lobbied congress to create a holiday for the Italian explorer.
Meanwhile there’s a plan to install cameras near the statue in Columbus park so vandilization doesn’t happen again.