Columbus Day Celebration Stirs Up Controversy

"Let's stop the celebration of a mass murderer."

Brendan Keany
October 14, 2019 - 1:22 pm

(WBEN Photo/Brendan Keany)

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BUFFALO (WBEN) - Several places around the country, including Washington D.C., have decided against celebrating Columbus Day and have moved toward recognizing Indigenous People's Day.

While that has happened in Buffalo to this point, about a dozen people gathered in front of the Christopher Columbus statue in Columbus Park this morning to protest.

"As a native person, I'm saying, 'Look, I don't care if you call it Indigenous People's Day or not, but let's stop the celebration of a mass murderer,'" said John Kane. "Whether we name this Indigenous People's Day or not, most of what we are battling here is the celebration of somebody who committed unbelievable atrocities against native people."

Speaking with WBEN's Mike Baggerman, Delaware District Councilman Joel Feroleto noted that he's open about a possible name change, but he also brought up reasons why Columbus Day is important for many in the Western New York community.

“It’s something that has to do with the contributions that Italian Americans have made and the sacrifices,” Feroleto said. “Years ago when it was first declared a national holiday in the 1930s by FDR it was very important because they suffered so much when they came here. This was a very important day to (legitimize) the contributions they have made to American society.”

However, Kane doesn't really buy that argument, saying that Columbus' connection to Italy is suspect at best, and there are plenty of others from an Italian background who have made significant contributions in United States history.

"The strongest issue that we have is the celebration of Columbus with parks, with statues, with parades - I mean it's absurd that the United States' capital is associated with Christopher Columbus - I mean it is really absurd," said Kane. "When you consider this is - first and foremost - a school holiday, it becomes even more important that real education is brought to bear on this subject."

Listen to Kane's full comments below:

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