(Reuters) – Indigenous Peoples Day will be celebrated in Los Angeles instead of the traditional Columbus Day after city leaders in the second largest U.S. city decided to recognize Native Americans instead of the Italian explorer.
Los Angeles joined several U.S. cities and states, including Minneapolis, Seattle, Alaska, Hawaii and Oregon that have replaced Columbus Day, a federal holiday celebrated on the first Monday in October to commemorate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus arriving in the Americas in 1492.
The Los Angeles city council voted 14-1 on Wednesday to make the change to commemorate indigenous, aboriginal and native people.
“The historical record is unambiguous and today is a moment where we took a step that is righteous, that is just, that is heeling and that is historically clear,” Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said after the vote.
Support for Indigenous Peoples Day has steadily risen in recent years, paralleling the growing perception that the wave of European settlement in the Western Hemisphere was genocidal to native populations.
The vote came after a contentious debate unfolded between Italian Americans and Native Americans over Christopher Columbus’ place in history versus that of Native Americans who were slain or driven from their land.
“Why don’t you stop picking on Christopher Columbus as though you’re picking on our people,” Beverly Hills resident John Giovanni Corda told a crowd of supporters and opponents of the measure during the meeting, according to the Los Angeles Times. “We never hurt you. We never wanted to hurt you.”
The federal government and about half of U.S. states give public employees paid leave on Columbus Day, according to the Council of State Governments. Schools and government offices are generally closed, but many private businesses remain open.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)