Debate rages on over Christopher Columbus and his legacy

Wooster Square in New Haven is one of the few places where Christopher Columbus is a symbol of triumph over discrimination.

John Craven

Oct 9, 2023, 9:26 PM

Updated 280 days ago

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It's Columbus Day but some Connecticut towns are now celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day instead, marking a fierce debate over Christopher Columbus and his legacy.
Wooster Square in New Haven was one of the few places where Christopher Columbus was a symbol of triumph over discrimination but the city removed the statue three years ago.
"He was the symbol chosen by the U.S. government to apologize for that lynching, and throughout the 20th century, discrimination against Italian Americans," says Matthew Guarnieri, of the Italian American Defense League.
In Bridgeport, the statue in Seaside Park was taken down after vandals targeted it several times.
"Bridgeport should not be on the wrong side of history," Gemeem Davis, of Bridgeport Generation Now, said during a protest in 2020.
Protesters say Columbus murdered innocent natives and paved the way for centuries of slavery.
"What Columbus did is no change from what the white man in America did to us 400 years ago when he kidnapped our parents and brought them here," said Lyle Hassan, another protester.
When it comes to Columbus's legacy, historians say it's complicated. Experts say he was driven more by greed than hate. Some say it's unfair to scapegoat him for generations of colonizers who came later.
The City of New Haven is now planning to install a new monument to immigrants. However, the Italian American Defense League is suing to bring Columbus back.
"We are listening to the Native American community, but we are against 'cancel culture,"' says Guarnieri.
Although Columbus Day is still a state holiday, New Haven and several other communities have replaced it with Indigenous Peoples' Day.
The Mohegan Tribal leadership issued a statement saying, "While the Mohegan Tribe appreciates that the state of Connecticut recognizes American Indian Day in September (not an official holiday), we look forward to when Connecticut stands with other states and municipalities and recognizes today as Indigenous Peoples' Day."
In addition, the Mashantucket Pequot Nation issued a statement saying, "As of 2023, the majority of the United States has officially adopted Indigenous Peoples' Day. We therefore strongly encourage Connecticut's Legislature to follow suit and recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day as an official state holiday in celebration of the histories, cultures, and resilience of Native people."


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