The City Council voted this week to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day as an official Los Angeles holiday, siding with critics who said the explorer’s connection to brutality and slavery makes him unworthy of celebration.
In approving the switch, the council also rejected a late push by Councilman Joe Buscaino through an amending motion to have Indigenous Peoples Day take place on Aug. 9 and a second new holiday celebrating the diverse cultures of Los Angeles replace Columbus Day on the second Monday of October.
The idea of getting rid of Columbus Day drew opposition from many Italian-Americans who view the day as a celebration of their national heritage because of Columbus’ Italian lineage.
Buscaino, who is an Italian-American, last year called the proposal to replace Columbus Day “troubling” and divisive, but failed to convince enough council members to replace it with a diversity day.
“With or without Columbus, Italians will continue to celebrate their sacrifices and contributions to this great country and our great city,” Buscaino said after the vote.
Buscaino’s motion would have sent the naming of Indigenous Peoples Day on Aug. 9 and a new diversity day in October back to a committee and city staff for further examination, but it was rejected by a vote of 11-4. A subsequent vote to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day passed 14-1, with Buscaino opposed.
Branamir Kvartuc, Buscaino’s spokesman, had previously said the councilman’s proposed new holiday could be called Embrace L.A. Day, but that specific language was not in the amending motion. Buscaino argued for Aug. 9 because that is the day the United Nations recognizes Indigenous Peoples Day.
The council ultimately sided with council members Mitch O’Farrell and Mike Bonin, who both argued that the strong symbolism of directly replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day was too important to overlook.
“Replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day is a very small step in apologizing and in making amends,” Bonin said.
O’Farrell, who is a member of the Wyandotte Native American Tribe, introduced a motion in November 2015 instructing the Human Relations Commission, with the assistance of the Los Angeles City and County Native American Commission, to report back on the historical importance and cultural impact of establishing Indigenous Peoples Day.
The councilman said he introduced the resolution because of what he called “Columbus’ legacy of extreme violence, enslavement and brutality” and “the suffering, destruction of cultures, and subjugation of Los Angeles’ original indigenous people, who were here thousands of years before anyone else.”
Columbus Day has long been a divisive holiday due to some historians’ conclusion that he committed acts of brutality on the native people he encountered, and was involved in slave trading.
The vote has Los Angeles joining such cities as Seattle, Minneapolis, Berkeley and Santa Cruz, along with five states, in replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.