Oct 8, 2021 - News
Indigenous Peoples' Day in, Columbus Day out in Philadelphia
Campatlanezi (Danza Azteca del Anahuac) seen here during an event celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day in 2019 at Penn Treaty Park. Photo courtesy of Indigenous Peoples' Day Philly Inc
Campatlanezi (Danza Azteca del Anahuac) at an event celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day in 2019 at Penn Treaty Park. Photo courtesy of Indigenous Peoples' Day Philly Inc.

The upcoming long holiday weekend marks a first for the city.

What's happening: Philadelphia will officially recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day, rather than Columbus Day, on Monday.

The big picture: Philly is joining a growing number of cities — and states — that have ditched Columbus Day for some form of Indigenous Peoples' Day.

  • Native American groups have long pushed for the change due to concerns the Italian explorer helped bring about the genocide of Indigenous people in the Americas.
  • The transition has been met by backlash from some Italian Americans who celebrate Christopher Columbus as the nation's first Italian immigrant.

Of note: The U.S. government and Pennsylvania still recognize Columbus Day.

What they're saying: Mayor Jim Kenney said in an emailed statement that the official designation was an "opportunity to recognize and teach about the atrocities that have occurred to Indigenous people through colonialism."

  • Ben Miller, a member of the Delaware Tribe of Indians in Oklahoma and part of Indigenous Peoples' Day Philly Inc., told Mike it makes a big difference to have official political understanding and recognition from the city.
  • "The day that we're putting in place is to recognize those who have been forgotten about," said Miller.

Catch up fast: Kenney penned an executive order this year to change the holiday observed on the second Monday of October to Indigenous Peoples' Day and to officially recognize Juneteenth. The actions were part of his administration's response to the 2020 protests against police brutality following the killing of George Floyd.

  • The mayor's order triggered a federal lawsuit seeking to reverse it and maintain Columbus Day as an officially recognized holiday.
  • The city's request to dismiss the federal lawsuit is pending.

The other side: Jody Della Barba, a member of the Italian American group 1492 Society and an organizer for this weekend's Columbus Day parade, called it "ethnic discrimination" for the city to stop officially recognizing the Italian explorer.

  • "It's ridiculous to take something away because a couple people are offended," said Della Barba, who's also a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit against the city.

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