Last Friday, President Joe Biden proclaimed that Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Columbus Day would be celebrated on the same date, Oct. 11. 

President Biden did not consult with Italian American leaders prior to the controversial announcement, so in response, The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) sent this urgent letter to The White House calling for a meeting. 

Indigenous Peoples should have their day to acknowledge their invaluable contributions, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the Italian American culture. 

Columbus’s symbolic rise began in 1892, after 11 innocent Italian immigrants were lynched in the streets of New Orleans in front of more than 5,000 people (it was just one of more than 40 documented lynchings of Italians in the U.S. during the “Great Arrival”).

To fight this crushing discrimination — and to fuel assimilation — Columbus statues and parades were created. But today, in the eyes of the Indigenous movement, Columbus monuments and celebrations have become synonymous with hate and enslavement.  

It’s ironic, and it’s a shame that Italian American history is ignored in today’s news cycle, especially given the past actions of other cultures. Consider the following: 

  • George Washington was a slave owner, yet he remains an American icon. 
  • Columbus never owned a slave; he never ordered the mass killing of Indigenous Peoples and he even adopted a Taino boy who he treated like a son. 

“It’s time for us to either hold every historical figure and group under a 21st-century microscope, or it’s time for us to discuss the hypocrisy and begin to work together to spark new inter-cultural communication and collaboration that seeks to honor the history of all sides, not just those conveniently selected by politicians,” said COPOMIAO President Basil M. Russo