SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — At the heart of the city of Syracuse stands a large monument of the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. Folks with native ancestors say it is an offense to the original inhabitants of the land – the Haudenosaunee nation. But a lot of people continue to look at it with admiration and pride.
The controversy around Columbus is reflected in the holiday named after him. According to media reports, several cities and states across the nation have renamed Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Every year, new communities consider the same change, but little has changed in Central New York.
Currently, only two of Onondaga County’s 18 school districts recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day next to -not instead of- Columbus Day. Schools in the East Syracuse-Minoa Central School District and in the LaFayette School District are now marking the second Monday of October as “Columbus Day / Indigenous Peoples’ Day”.
“I think Columbus Day should be renamed because the history of these continents, North America and South America, has been wiped away by the myth of Christopher Columbus as this great hero,” said Jerrel A. Burgo, an assistant director in the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Syracuse University. “I think people need to be aware of the atrocities that followed this ‘great discovery’. It’s about recognizing the people who were raped, pillaged and robbed of their natural resources and their land.”
Ben Walsh, Syracuse’s mayor, is interested to hear more about what the public thinks. He commissioned InterFaith Works, an organization bridging people of different backgrounds and cultures, to lead the dialogue and report back. The first dialogue circle will take place after October 8.