NUTLEY, NJ - Indigenous Peoples’ Day, has replaced Columbus Day in 130 U.S. cities within 34 states, and eight of those include complete states. South Dakota took a stance in 1990 changing their holiday to Native American Day. Hawaii celebrates Discoverers' Day to recognize the Polynesian discoverers of the Hawaiian Islands.
From last year to this year, the number of U.S. cities no longer recognizing Christopher Columbus nearly doubled. In 2018, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, replaced Columbus Day in 55 U.S. cities, recognizing Native Americans instead. Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes the people native to the land instead of instead of Christopher Columbus.
Florida, Alaska, Vermont, New Mexico and Maine no longer celebrate Columbus Day. This year, Wisconsin was the eighth state to be added to that list.
Also 10 universities observe Indigenous Peoples Day instead. Those against the holiday say Columbus Day glorifies the ill-treatment of Native American peoples and the colonization of their land.
Some of the 37th annual Nutley-Belleville Columbus Day and Italian Heritage Parade honorees and committee members spoke with Tapinto Nutley about the parade turnout, the holiday and their thoughts on keeping the parade going as is, during the parade after-party on Sunday, Oct 13. Columbus Day was Oct. 14, October is also acknowledged as Italian heritage month.
Nutley Man of the Year, Joseph Tesei said the parade is wonderful and he was very happy. He feels the parade should always honor Columbus. “I think you have to keep the tradition going. This is how the country was founded and people forget that and it shouldn’t be forgotten,” he said.
Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Gina Tamburri of Belleville said she liked to see more floats at the parade but there was a better crowd of spectators this year. Tamburri said she does not know how she would feel about not having Columbus in a parade. “The Columbus Day Parade to me represents the Italian people; everything is red, white and green,” she said.
Community Excellence Award honorees Karen Yeamens and Walt Smith weighed in on the subject. Yeamens said the parade was a wonderful turnout with many high school bands participating. “The Columbus Day Parade represents Italian Heritage,” she said.
Smith also agreed there was a great turnout of spectators this year. He also feels the parade should not be changed. “It is very much to support Italian Heritage,” he said.
Belleville Woman of the Year are Anne Jannicelli said the parade seem very big and a lot of emotion. “They might [change the parade] but Columbus Day is a constitutional right, but there wouldn’t be so much on the Columbus issue,” she said.
Parade chair Vito Matturro said it was the largest turnout in years and over 80 participants including eight floats and nine marching bands. He said, “The holiday celebrates an explorer and what he contributed to all the Americas not just Italian Americans. […] [The parade] remaining as Columbus Day with Italian heritage is what keeps the parade viable,” he said.
Parade co-chair Susan LaMorte also agreed there was a good turnout although the people were scattered out. She said the weather that day, the sun was shining bright, helped bring people out to view the parade. LaMorte believes Nutley and Belleville will not change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day or even the parade to only celebrate Italian heritage. “I don’t think it has an influence on this town,” she said.
However LaMorte is not certain on the future of the parade and the holiday. She recently joined the Italian American One Voice Coalition (IAOVC), a nationwide network of activists that combat discrimination and negative stereotyping, who are fighting to preserve Columbus Day. “Down the line we may change it, unless we can fight that back. […] [The committee] won’t change it, but [others] may have to change [the parade]. A lot of towns get a lot of pressure,” she said.
IAOVC has recently handed out the book "Christopher Columbus the Hero: Defending Columbus from Modern Day Revisionism," by Rafael to high schools, the district and freeholders, to as LaMorte puts it, “get the record straight.”
Though there has not been any known controversy in Nutley and Belleville, however the numbers clearly show a rise of cities and states that no longer celebrate the explorer Christopher Columbus.