LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to eliminate all references to Columbus Day as a county holiday, designating Oct. 12 as Italian American Heritage Day and creating a new Indigenous Peoples Day.
Indigenous Peoples Day will fall on the second Monday of October, beginning no later than 2019.
Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl co-authored the motion.
“This action is about publicly recognizing that America’s ancestors, for centuries, oppressed certain minority groups,” Solis said.
Many speakers were emotional, recalling a history of genocide. Others said honoring Columbus served to distort what their children learn in school.
“There are a lot of generations of hurt,” Supervisor Janice Hahn said.
Solis said the change would not mean forgetting what Columbus had done, but would lead to a fuller understanding.
“This is not about erasing history,” Solis said. “I believe the full history and impact of Christopher Columbus should be taught to current and future generations. While we cannot change the past, we can realize the pain that millions suffered throughout our nation’s history, as well as the tremendous achievements of the original inhabitants of our continent.”
Columbus, long celebrated for his discovery of America, never actually set foot on North American soil. He landed instead in the Caribbean, where he was said to have committed atrocities against the native island people he found there.
Solis said the motion amounted to restorative justice. She pointed to the contributions of Native Americans to agriculture, medicine, music, language and art, while also noting that they suffer some of the highest percentages of depression, incarceration and infant mortality and have a lower life expectancy than other Americans.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger voted against the motion without comment.