BOSTON (CBS) – Acting Mayor Kim Janey announced Wednesday that Boston will observe Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day. The executive order was signed at City Hall. While it leaves one community happy, another across the street in the North End is not.
“As mayor of Boston, I hereby declare the second Monday of each October Indigenous Peoples Day in the city of Boston,” she said. Members of the indigenous community watched as the acting mayor signed the executive order changing Columbus Day.
“The atrocities that person committed was horrendous – to see this change is memorable,” Chalinaru Dones, a supporter of the change, said. “It means the world to me; this is amazing – just the thought that I am alive to see this happen is huge in its own,” she added.
North End resident and member of the neighborhood’s business community, Damien DiPaola, is now feeling like this goes far beyond a name change because this is a day many Italians celebrate their heritage.
“If you’re offended by Columbus, that’s OK, but don’t be offended by Italians because we are a good, loving, caring people,” he said.
It’s a decision some are arguing the acting mayor made without the necessary input from all sides.
“Without any input from anyone or even my organization… it just seems like a lack of due process,” Diane Modica, of the Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, said.
“To take away from a culture and giving it to another culture is totally wrong. It’s very hurtful for an acting city mayor to do this without the proper procedures. She didn’t even consult with any of the Italian organizations,” Louis Strazzullo, the North End Columbus Day Parade chairman, explained.
Janey said she did make those calls.
“I don’t need to hold a public hearing to make an executive order. We’ve had lots of conversations internally, with the indigenous community. I’ve made calls to the North End community specifically,” she said.
Moments after the signing, City Councilor Lydia Edwards, who represents the North End, put out a statement, which said, “Today’s unilateral action by the acting mayor was a surprise to me, and I don’t believe it encourages the honest, transparent, healing conversation we need.”
Edwards added that both Indigenous People and Italian Americans need to be honored, celebrated and acknowledged.
In what is still named Christopher Columbus Park in the North End, there is a base of what used to be a statue of him that has been removed after being vandalized several times. The city said the statue will have a forever home with the Knights of Columbus in the North End. However, some residents would like to see something else standing in place of Columbus.
“Let’s put Leonardo da Vinci up there. Let’s put Galileo up there,” DiPaola said. He’s hoping the conversation isn’t over. “October 11 should be Italian Heritage Day, where our neighborhoods close off and we celebrate our culture, our people that suffered in this country and fought with so many of the immigrants back then, hand and hand,” DiPaola added.
The acting mayor didn’t rule out continuing the conversation with the Italian American community.
“We can lift up Indigenous Peoples and we can respect Italian Americans,” the acting mayor said.