CHICAGO — Chicago’s public schools will no longer observe Columbus Day, replacing that October school holiday with Indigenous Peoples Day, with civic and political leaders promising to challenge the decision.
Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans president Sergio Giangrande is calling the decision made Wednesday a "slap in the face" of the more than 500,000 Italian Americans in Chicago.
Giangrande says his group, which sponsors the city’s annual Columbus Day parade, is moving to reverse the school district’s decision.
“For Italian Americans, who endured horrific discrimination and continue to be the subject of stereotypical degradation in popular culture, Christopher Columbus is a symbol for the resilience of a people that have helped shape the cultural landscape of this great nation,” Giangrande said in a statement.
The 5-2 vote by the Chicago Board of Education follows similar efforts to recognize the negative effect of Columbus’ arrival in the western hemisphere on the indigenous population. South Dakota changed Columbus Day to Native American Day in 1990. Several cities have followed South Dakota’s lead.
The issue also has come up in St. Louis regarding a statue of Columbus in Tower Grove Park.
Board member Elizabeth Todd-Breland, an associate professor of history at the University of Illinois-Chicago, told its members it was their responsibility to lead on the issue. About 11,000 of the school district’s 355,000 students are Native Americans.
"In addition to our indigenous students in CPS, more than 80% of our students are the descendants of survivors of European settler colonialism,” Todd-Breland said.
"I think this is important for all of our school communities and I think it’s the right thing to do now.”
Chicago Alderman Nick Sposato, an Italian American, said it was ``time for war with CPS” over the decision to no longer celebrate Columbus.
“Go ahead and have your damn Indigenous Peoples Day,” Sposato said. ``Just don’t have it on Columbus Day.”
Alderman Anthony Napolitano called the change “absolutely ridiculous.”
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!