The small Ohioan city of Oberlin has decided to no longer celebrate Columbus Day, replacing it instead with Indigenous Peoples Day, out of respect for its Indigenous population.
City Council members met Monday following a public discussion with town residents and voted unanimously to remove the controversial holiday, which celebrates Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the Americas in 1492 and his subsequent colonization of the region.
“Christopher Columbus was an agent of and continues to be a symbol of the genocide of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas,” said Elissa Washuta, who attended a demonstration Saturday together with around 100 protesters demanding the removal of the statue of Christopher Columbus, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
Oberlin councilwoman Sharon Pearson defended the move, employing the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“It’s never too late to do the right thing,” she quoted, according to the Morning Journal.
“And I think that it is time for us as a community to take the words of our indigenous people and do the right thing.”
Some residents, however, complained that the change was “unnecessary” or “offensive” to the Italian-American community, suggesting that both holidays could be celebrated separately so as not to pit Italian-Americans against Native Americans.
“It sounds a little ridiculous,” said resident David Dodd.
“I think we should keep American holidays they way there are.”
Nonetheless, many residents support the change.
Oberlin is not the first U.S. city to scrap Columbus Day, celebrated on the second Monday of October every year. At least 12 cities across the U.S. have changed the holiday's name and will honor the territory's Indigenous past. Berkeley, Calif. has been observing Indigenous People's Day since 1992, making it the first city to do so.
The change to the commemorative holiday comes amid a wave of protests against racism and far-right violence.