PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The School Department may join the growing movement behind switching out Columbus Day with Indigenous People Day.
School Committee member Cynthia Taylor suggested the school change the name when written on the school calendar. The change may be small but the gesture is part of a growing movement to use the weekend to celebrate the original natives of the Americas instead of the person whose "discovery" lead to an invasion of their land.
"I've come to realize really, there is nothing to honor about this man. The only thing I can come up with as a positive is I get a day off from the bank," said School Committee Daniel Elias.
Taylor said the change of the holiday would line up more with the social studies curriculum and that numerous towns, colleges, and universities throughout the country have been making the change.
"Williams College has already done this. A lot of colleges and public schools have already goes this way," she said.
The second Monday in October has been recognized as a federal holiday since 1937. It was created to honor Christopher Columbus for discovering the New World — then populated by anywhere from 10 million to 50 million people. But, historical research shows that he wasn't the first European to step foot in the Americas. But when he did get to America, he was atrocious toward Native Americans.
In 1992, Berkeley, Calif., first changed Columbus Day to Indigenous People Day. But it has only been in the last three or four years when the trend caught on. In 2016, the Massachusetts towns of Cambridge, Amherst, and Northampton all made the switch. As did the entire state of Vermont (which had never observed Columbus Day as a state holiday).
Superintendent Jason McCandless said many states don't celebrate Columbus Day. He hadn't
"We are here now and we know what we know from history, it seems very appropriate," McCandless said of the change.
The move won't change the calendar. The schools will still be closed — and the holiday is written into the school's collective bargaining contracts — but the wording will change. So while the day to day impacts are non-existent, it is a symbolic gesture of the school district to honor the indigenous tribes that were here well before Columbus.
Along the same lines, the School Department has considered changing the name of the Taconic Braves and the mascot depicting an American Indian. There has been a growing movement among schools and sports teams to rid them of derogatory Native American terms and logos.
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