LOS ANGELES — City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell held two celebrations Oct. 9 to recognize the recent vote by the City Council to replace Columbus Day with a holiday honoring Native Americans.
The council voted in August to make the switch and celebrate the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day, but it has until 2019 to officially create the new holiday while it drafts and approves a new ordinance.
O’Farrell is wasting no time celebrating the move recognizing the City Council’s vote with students at the Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts and at an event at UCLA’s Fowler Museum.
At the UCLA event, O’Farrell presented official certificates of appreciation to members of the L.A. City-County Native American Commission.
O’Farrell, who is a member of the Wyandotte Native American Tribe, led the drive on the City Council to replace Columbus Day and successfully argued that the explorer’s connection to brutality and slavery makes him unworthy of celebration.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted last week 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 in Los Angeles County, 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.
As a result of the 4-1 vote, the board will also urge Los Angeles Unified School District officials to take similar action.
The Los Angeles City Council voted in August to eliminate Columbus Day from city calendars. Several states no longer recognize Columbus Day, which remains a federal holiday.