Oberlin City Council votes unanimously to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day

For many, the vote was about more than just a name
Posted at 9:49 PM, Aug 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-22 07:24:45-04

A controversial vote put an end to Columbus Day in Oberlin Monday night.

City Council voted unanimously to instead celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday of October, capping a months-long debate that many agreed was about much more than a name.

While Council spoke with one voice, those in attendance at Monday's meeting did not. Several people stood at the lectern and applauded the vote, arguing Christopher Columbus, who's credited with founding the New World, should instead be remembered for his role in starting the transatlantic slave trade and other atrocities against Native Americans.

"I would love to be able to go to school on Wednesday and tell my friends that there is not a mass murder being celebrated in our fine city," one eighth grade student said.

But several Italian Americans in the crowd said the vote disrespected their heritage.

"{It's} not so much a celebration of Christopher Columbus, but a day of Italian American pride," one man said.

"To treat us with contempt, leads us to believe that the Oberlin City Council is subjecting the Italian American community to a very subtle form of bigotry," Cleveland Columbus Day Parade Chairman Basil Russo said.

Joe Filipiak, with the Knights of Columbus Catholic Charity, offered a compromise, recommending both holidays be celebrated on different days.

"There’s so many good things that Columbus is attached to today," Filipiak said. "Why are they just picking on Columbus?”

But Three Eagle Cloud, a Taino Indian whose Caribbean ancestors suffered greatly under Columbus' rule, historians have argued, said his namesake must go.

"If they had a holiday celebrating Italian people, I'd be the first one there, but I'm not going to celebrate a murderer, a rapist, the first transatlantic slave trader," Three Eagle Cloud said.

Oberlin becomes the first governing body in Ohio to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.