WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - Five hundred and twenty-five years after Columbus sailed the ocean blue, the day we celebrate in his honor has been swamped by the tide of controversy.
More and more cities are sweeping aside Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous People's Day.
With eight members of the D.C. Council now co-sponsors of a bill to do the same here, Columbus' ship may have sailed.
Los Angeles, Phoenix, Vermont and Minneapolis are all among the jurisdictions that have already sunk Columbus Day holiday in favor of Indigenous People's Day.
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Columbus supporters are pushing back hard, blaming both racists and leftists for the effort to torpedo Columbus Day.
“Now antifa is attacking Columbus. These attacks aren't based on fact. It's radical propaganda,” said a YouTube video from the National Christopher Columbus Association.
But as he laid a wreath at the Columbus statue in front of Union Station, even Italian Ambassador Armando Varricchio acknowledged the explorer's complicated legacy.
“Such processes came at a high price for the American native population, something no one can disregard," he said.
A vandal made that point when he attacked D.C.'s Columbus Circle statue in 2002.
Even schoolkids know Native Americans discovered America long before Columbus. He sent 500 natives as slaves back to Spain. His arrival heralded hundreds of years of warfare, disease and murder that decimated the Native American population.
The LA City Council noted that history in renaming the second Monday in October after Indigenous People.
“The historical record is clear as far as what Christopher Columbus himself, or his crew, enacted on the Taino native peoples,” said Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, a Native American.
But for many Italian Americans, Columbus is a hero whose difficult journey mirrors their own. His story encouraged the immigrants as they struggled against ethnic hatred in their new home.
“As Italians, we are proud of his bravery and vision,” said the Italian ambassador.
Columbus Day has only been a federal holiday since 1937. And fewer than half the states mandate a paid day off for the holiday.
But Columbus' name is everywhere. Including here in the District of Columbia and the proposed state of New Columbia. So would that change too?
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