CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Public Schools have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day on the school calendar, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she does not back some aldermen’s plans to do the same at the city level.
“I have no plans to support any changes in elimination of Columbus Day,” the mayor said at an unrelated event Friday morning.
Earlier this week, Chicago Board of Education voted to change the school holiday observed on the second Monday of October from Columbus Day, honoring the Italian explorer, to Indigenous People’s Day, to honor Native American culture and acknowledge the effects of European colonization on indigenous communities. CPS calendars had been using both names to refer to the holiday in recent years.
“For a number of years, CPS essentially celebrated both Columbus Day and Indigenous People’s Day. I thought that that made sense. Certainly there’s a lot more that we can do to elevate the history of indigenous people,” Lightfoot said. “They are a marginalized community, and I think there’s a lot more that we can do.”
The move by CPS to replace Columbus Day upset Chicago’s two Italian American aldermen. Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) told the Chicago Sun-Times he was “ready to go to war” over it, and vowed to fight to get the district to reverse its decision.
Two ordinances were introduced to the City Council last year to remove the Columbus Day name from the holiday on the second Monday in October, and to name it Indigenous People’s Day instead.
The proposals claim recognizing Columbus Day “perpetuates violence against the Indigenous Peoples and other marginalized communities through the promotion of American Exceptionalism, which continues to be grounded in the ideologies of white supremacy.”
However, the measures have never been called for a vote, and without the mayor’s support would face an uphill battle to be approved by the City Council.
A proposed resolution introduced in 2016 to commemorate Indigenous People’s Day on the same day as Columbus Day in Chicago ultimately died without a full City Council vote.