We think that there are enough holidays to go around.
On the eve of Columbus Day, we anticipate that the World of Wellesley and the United American Indians of New England will raise their voices to abolish Columbus Day in Wellesley and replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day. This is our response to those voices.
In 2009, President Barack Obama signed legislation that permanently designated the Friday after Thanksgiving Day as the civil holiday for honoring Native American cultural heritage and tribal sovereignty. This year, national Native American Heritage Day falls on Friday, November 27th.
This legislation, known as House Joint Resolution 40, “Native American Heritage Day Act of 2009,” was introduced by Democrat Congressman Joe Baca (CA). To quote from the Indian Affairs website at the U.S. Interior Department: “Native American Heritage Day can be observed through appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities. It is an opportunity for all Americans to learn about the historical status of Native American tribal governments; the present-day conditions of Native American people; their traditions and languages; and their rich cultural legacy.”
When Columbus Day was established by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937, it was a civil holiday, too. Columbus Day did not become a federal holiday until 1968, after intensive lobbying by Italian American groups for a change in status. Why, we ask, can’t Native American groups lobby the federal government to make the Friday after Thanksgiving the federal holiday they so richly deserve?
Italian Americans would support Native Americans wholeheartedly in this endeavor. We have suffered nowhere nearly as deeply as you have, but we have experiences in common. We know what it’s like to live in poverty as well as suffer scorn and injustice for having a different appearance, language, customs, and faith tradition. Our ancestors left their beautiful native lands in Italy, which was heart-wrenching. The federal government interred our ancestors in camps during WWII.
Let Wellesley’s Italian American community keep the second Monday in October as their holiday. For us, it’s an important symbol of Italian American pride. Respect our heritage and President Roosevelt’s legacy. This November, we’ll respectfully honor your heritage on the holiday that President Obama established for you. Until then, vai in pace.
Committee to Preserve Wellesley’s Italian American Heritage