The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has voted to eliminate all references to Columbus Day as a county holiday, creating a new Indigenous Peoples Day. This comes on the heels of the L.A. City council to eliminate the holiday altogether.
The county however designated Oct. 12 as Italian American Heritage Day.
Indigenous Peoples Day will fall on the second Monday of October, 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.”
On Saturday, Oct.14, the City of San Fernando, The Fernandeno Tataviam Band of Mission Indians and the Pukuu Cultural Community Services Center are co-hosting the 2nd Annual Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration. It will be held at San Fernando Recreation Park 208 Park Avenue, in San Fernando.
In 2015, the San Fernando City Council established Indigenous Peoples Day in place of Columbus Day, making the small city the first in Los Angeles County to take the action.
“Indigenous Peoples Day celebrates the sovereignty, resilience, cultures, and unique contributions of Indigenous peoples. The festival will host an array of performances by diverse Indigenous backgrounds, food, arts & crafts vendors, educational booths, drum circles, and more,” said Fernandeno Tataviam tribal President Rudy Ortega, Jr.
Ortega was among those who lobbied the county to make the historic change.
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.