Columbus Day is a public holiday in many parts of the country to commemorate the landing of Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1492, in the New World. Columbus was a native of Genoa, Italy, and over the years Italian Americans took up the cause of honoring his achievement. Several cities host Columbus Day parades which are primarily Italian American celebrations who believe Christopher Columbus represents the values of discovery and risk that are at the heart of the American dream.
They also choose to celebrate Columbus Day as an Italian American Heritage event because many Italians were persecuted and some even killed in their attempt to make a new life here in the U.S., they encountered an America that was xenophobic, that was engaging in acts of violence against immigrants. A lynching in New Orleans killed 11 Italian Americans in 1891. It has also become a day to celebrate the contributions Italian Americans make to society.
Some Americans instead choose to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day in its place. Indigenous Peoples Day honors Native Americans, their rich, diverse cultures, and brings attention to the injustices perpetrated against them.
For the Native Americans through-out North and Central America, Columbus Day was always hurtful as it glorified the violent past constituting 500 years of colonial torture and oppression by European explorers like Columbus and those who settled in America. Indigenous Peoples’ Day draws attention to the pain, trauma, and broken promises that were erased by the celebration of Columbus Day. Before his arrival, the indigenous folk were successful self-sufficient communities that sustained life for thousands of years.
President Biden was the first president to officially recognize Indigenous Peoples Day as a day to honor Native Americans. This recognition helps correct a "whitewashed" American history that has glorified European explorers.
Not celebrating Columbus Day is not a slight against Italian Americans. There are many great contributions Italian Americans have made to this country, and these should be honored, however, there is no reason to tie these in with also celebrating Columbus’ achievement of sailing across the Atlantic and the violence he committed against the Indigenous communities he found.