On March 2nd, Wellesley voters will be asked to vote on Question #1, which proposes to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day. Here are good fact-based reasons why we think you should vote NO on Question #1.
Indigenous Peoples have been rightly calling for a day of recognition and atonement. President Barack Obama answered their call in 2009 by permanently establishing national Native American Heritage Day, a civil holiday, on the Friday after Thanksgiving. With this holiday in place, we have the opportunity to visit the mistakes of the past as a community by acknowledging those mistakes and building a more comprehensive history that incorporates more voices moving forward.
Wellesley can celebrate both Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day. Columbus Day was established to celebrate Italian-American heritage and was a response to the racist lynching of 11 innocent Italian men by an angry mob in New Orleans in 1891—the largest mass lynching in U.S. history. It was also intended to suppress rampant anti-Catholicism and the repression of Italian and Irish immigrants.
Columbus was not a murderer, enslaver, nor a proponent of harming Indigenous Peoples. There is great scholarship on this point from the late Harvard Professor Samuel Eliot Morison (Ph.D. Harvard) and Stanford Professor Emerita Carol Delaney (Ph.D. University of Chicago) to start. Tagging Columbus with a list of atrocities including “the destruction of indigenous cultures” is misguided. Columbus never set foot on the land that became the United States.
Canceling Columbus Day is anti-Italian. It cancels the celebration of a heritage because of the misrepresentation of its namesake, willfully ignoring its underlying purpose. Martin Luther King Day is celebrated by African Americans, St. Patrick’s Day by Irish Americans, Cinque de Mayo by Mexican Americans, and Lunar New Year by Chinese Americans.
Today, Columbus Day also speaks to immigration, diversity, and multiculturalism. Columbus opened the New World to immigration and to all of us being here in Wellesley today. Voting no on Question #1 will allow for a two-day celebration that will honor and respect all cultures in Wellesley.
Chair, Committee to Preserve Wellesley’s Italian American History
Paine Street, Wellesley, MA