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Oakland County does away with Columbus Day, cites enslavement of Native Americans – The Oakland Press

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The Oakland County Board of Commissioners have decided to do away with Columbus Day citing the Italian explorer’s ties to the enslavement of Native Americans. 

The resolution to rename the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day was approved along party lines 11-10 by the Democratic-majority board of commissioners on Sept. 23. 

Nationwide, 10 states and dozens of cities have also made the switch in a growing movement to end the celebration of the Italian explorer in favor of honoring Indigenous communities and their resiliency in the face of 500 years of colonial oppression at the hands of European explorers and those who settled here. 

In Michigan, Alpena, Traverse City, Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Ferndale, Ypsilanti, and Kalamazoo have proclaimed the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day. In June, the City of Detroit removed the bust of Christopher Columbus statue in the median of Randolph Street facing the intersection of Jefferson Avenue. 

Oakland County Indigenous Peoples Day

Before the vote came down, there was much discussion about the proposed measure to rename the federal holiday. 

Michael Gingell, Republican caucus chair, voted against the measure after proposing an amendment to move Indigenous Peoples Day to the first or third Monday in October. The amendment was voted down along party lines 11-10. 

Commissioners Shelley Taub and Bob Hoffman also spoke out against the measure. 

“I think this vote cancelling Columbus Day is a big mistake,” said Gingell. “To me, we’re continuing on and I think it’s a sad day when there is a movement to cancel Columbus Day and erase the history that has good and bad to it. It we just cancel our history and say that the facts around our history are incorrect, we will not learn from it and very likely repeat it.”

David Woodward, chair of the board, said he’s “quite sure that Columbus Day will reign on,” but that Oakland County will now recognize Indigenous Peoples Day as well. 

Indigenous peoples first proposed the day during a 1977 United Nations conference on discrimination against them. In 1989, South Dakota became the first state to switch Columbus Day to Native Americans’ Day. 

According to a report from NPR, many Italian Americans eye Columbus Day as a day to celebrate their Italian heritage and the contributions of Italian Americans to the United States. For many Italian Americans, Columbus Day is about people searching for safety and acceptance in their new home.

It was adopted at a time when Italians were vilified and faced religious and ethnic discrimination. The first commemoration came in 1892, a year after a mass lynching of 11 Italian Americans by a mob in New Orleans.

Columbus Day became a national holiday in 1934 to honor a man who, ironically, never set foot in the United States. Columbus anchored in the Bahamas.

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