Indigenous Peoples Day

Indigenous People's Day or Columbus Day? the Debate Continues

NBC Universal, Inc.

The debate about whether to observe Indigenous People's Day or Columbus Day continues across the nation.

In the South Bay, the fight over the history of Columbus has a history of its own.

The statue of Christopher Columbus once prominently displayed at San Jose City Hall was removed in 2018 after a community outcry. Now, it resides inside the Italian American Heritage Foundation Hall.

Community leaders said they understand the perception of Columbus as a colonizer, but emphasize Columbus was operating in a 15th century world.

They also point out that since the statue was removed three years ago, many other historical statues have been taken down as well.

"It's not going to be perfect, it's not going to be clean, but it certainly isn't the vilification that we learned about Columbus," said Ken Borelli, President of the Italian American Heritage Foundation.

But Borelli also praises the compromise of celebrating an overall Italian "pride" Day like San Francisco recently did.

"I think if there's any 'good' to come out of all of this is a keener appreciation of the contributions of Italian Americans to the culture of the United States," he said.

The Indian Health Center in San Jose provides medical services and counseling to about 22,000 patients.

Gerardo Loera, development director at the center said community feelings toward Columbus are not aimed at the current Italian American community, but said re-naming the holiday is important to remind the public their communities are "still here."

"We want to speak truth to the history of all things so that we might be able to reach a place of atonement and be able to work together as a greater community," he said.

The holiday name change will probably always generate mixed feelings. But with both communities getting separate days to celebrate their heritage, community leaders said they hope the focus can be more about recognizing achievement and future goals rather than the actions of one individual in history.

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