Debate continues over Columbus Day holiday

Oct 10, 2016

To some, Columbus Day is merely a day off from work. Others view it as traditional holiday that commemorates an explorer’s arrival to the Americas. Still others shun it as an inappropriate national holiday that should not be celebrated -- or should be redefined.

History shows Columbus committed atrocities and brought slavery to the Americas. Cities like Denver, Phoenix and Seattle instead honor Indigenous Peoples’ Day for those who don’t want to celebrate the controversial explorer. Just last month, the Niagara-Wheatfield school district decided to do away withColumbus Day, and instead recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Mark Toney of Amherst believes Native Americans should be shown greater appreciation.

“We need to recognize very strongly that Native Americans were absolutely here first and they had a civilization that, in some ways, surpassed European peoples,” Toney told WBFO, which took to local streets to get people’s views on the holiday.

Still, Toney belives Columbus should still be honored to some degree.

“I have mixed emotions actually,” Toney said. “There is a big strong push that I’ve seen lately to rename it to Indigenous Americans’ Day, and okay, fine, but we still should acknowledge the accomplishments of Columbus.”

Bernadette Loomis of Buffalo believes Indigenous Peoples’ Day merits a holiday.

“Why just have one person? I mean, it’s like leaving them out of everything,” Loomis said. “They should have part of it too, maybe.”

Bonifas Ngotho has been living in Buffalo for 14 years. Originally from Nairobi, Kenya, Ngotho has experienced a number of Columbus Days in America. He encourages America to look to the future on this day as opposed to celebrating the past.

“On Columbus Day, a lot of people, what they think about is that it’s happiness,” he said. “It’s not about happiness. It’s all about you need to focus and see what you can do for the rest of the other people in the United States of America. That’s all it takes.”

Buffalo resident Maria Vazquez of Buffalo acknowledges the atrocities committed by Columbus, but she’s convinced the holiday can still serve as a valuable history lesson for children. She also believes that native people deserve more recognition on this day and would like to see her city celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

A news conference and rally was scheduled to take place today to issue a call to action within the Buffalo community for the City of Buffalo and Buffalo Public Schools to recognize Indigenous Heritage Day instead of Columbus Day. The event was expected to include activists making statements of solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in opposition to the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline.