The Seattle City Council passed a unanimous decision on Monday to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the city.
Tribal members and other supporters say that the move recognizes the rich history of people who have inhabited the area for centuries.
Last week, the Seattle School Board decided to have its schools observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the same day as Columbus Day; earlier this year, Minneapolis made the same decision.
As Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Nation, a tribe on the Olympic Peninsula, said, “This action will allow us to bring into current present day our valuable and rich history, and it’s there for future generations to learn.”
Sharp’s statement that “nobody discovered Seattle, Washington,” was met with a round of applause.
ABC News reports that several Italian-Americans objected to the change on the grounds that while Indigenous People’s Day honors the heritage one group, it simultaneously disregards the Italian heritage of another group. After all, Columbus Day, a federal holiday, commemorates the arrival Christopher Columbus—who was Italian—to the Americas in 1492.
“We don’t argue with the idea of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, said Ralph Fascitelli, an Italian-American resident of Seattle. “We do have a big problem of it coming at the expense of what essentially is Italian Heritage Day.”
Fascitelli added that many Americans of Italian heritage “feel disrespected” by the change.
Councilmember Nick Licata, who is Italian-American, said he saw the legislation as allowing everyone to celebrate a new day where everyone’s strength is recognized.
Seattle councilmember Bruce Harrell, who co-sponsored the resolution, said that he makes “no excuses for this legislation” and noted that he believes the city won’t be successful in its social programs and outreach until “we fully recognize the evils of our past.”
According to Mayor Ed Murray’s spokesman Jason Kelly, Murray is expected to sign the resolution.