Columbus Day

Chicago Schools to Observe Indigenous People's Day Instead of Columbus Day

The decision was reached during a board meeting Wednesday

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Thanks to a decision reached at the Chicago Board of Education meeting Wednesday, students and faculty will now observe the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day rather than as Columbus Day.

Until now, Chicago Public Schools had celebrated both holidays, but Wednesday’s decision means that only Indigenous People’s Day will be celebrated.

“I think it’s great, changing the name of the holiday. That’s what (the celebration) is really all about,” Chicago charter school teacher Erin Walker said.

The change marks a significant change in a city that celebrates Christopher Columbus in a variety of ways. From the annual October parade that celebrates Italian heritage to a six-lane street that runs through the heart of downtown Chicago, the city celebrates the explorer in a variety of ways.

Even still, the board’s move to declare the day Indigenous People’s Day is seen as a victory for those looking to celebrate the peoples that Columbus found when he arrived in the new world.

“We don’t teach that Columbus discovered America,” Walker said. “We teach that there were people already here.”

The move toward celebrating Indigenous People’s Day has been driven by criticism of Columbus, and especially of the way he treated the people he found in North America.

Not everybody is on board with the changes.

“I grew up with a different story. We were taught different things in school,” parent Sandy Thygessen said. “Why does everything have to change? I wasn’t raised that way. I don’t agree with it at all.”

Some teachers still feel strongly that lessons can still be learned from Columbus’ journey, while respecting the legacy of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

“I think it’s (the name change) is pretty cool,” Sparkle Rogers, a teacher at King Elementary, said. “I do think Columbus deserves some credit. Of course we know that America was already discovered prior to him getting there, but we still do give him credit for sailing here.”

NBC 5 has reached out to the Italian consulate for comment, but has not heard back.

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