An impassioned plea from the Niagara Wheatfield Student Council and the Native American Club has successfully changed Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day in the Niagara Wheatfield Central School District.
At the meeting for a request for the change, the Vice President of the Native American Club, Quinna Hamby, said Christopher Columbus should not be honored with a day named for him.
In her presentation, Hamby showed the results of a charge Columbus led in the Caribbean Islands, Central and South America. Genocide, slavery and kidnappings led to the extinction of an entire race of people, the Tainos.
Hamby read accounts from Bartolome De Las Casas, a Spanish Priest who was with Columbus and wrote in defense of the Hispaniola Natives and recorded the events.
According to these writings, the horrific tortures, killings and rapes by Columbus and his men caused many of the Tainos to kill themselves and their children, rather than suffer the invaders' cruelty.
The tribe quickly shrank from two million people at the beginning of the 15th century to 4000. Soon after that, they were extinct.
Hamby's presentation also showed that Columbus never set foot on North America and should not get credit for discovering it. Millions of people had been living here for year, including the Vikings from 985-1506.
Columbus Day was originally created in 1934, lobbied for by an Italian-American named Angelo Noce who was hoping to combat the discrimination of Italian immigrants in the United States. Hamby says at first there was not an accurate account of history, so President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed it a federal holiday. After more was revealed about what Columbus and his men really did, there were protests across the United States. Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon and South Dakota changed the name of October 12th to Indigenous Peoples Day.
After seeing this presentation and listening to Hamby's recount of events, the Board of Education unanimously voted to remove Columbus Day from the Niagara Wheatfield district and refer to it as Indigenous Peoples Day.
"I want to thank the students and the adults for helping our students use their voices to make a positive change," said High School Principal Tim Carter. "That night I was beaming with pride that our children can make a difference in our community."
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