Conn. (WTNH) — A tale of two holidays: throughout Connecticut on Monday, some recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day, while others observed Columbus Day.
The federal government still recognizes Columbus Day, but depending on where you live and what you choose to recognize, you may have celebrated the indigenous people of the United States, instead.
In Old Lyme, Indigenous Peoples’ Day was recognized. At the event, people learned about the Nehantics through speeches, pottery, and demonstrations. The Nehantic people date back 3,000 years. They were once declared extinct by the government in the 19th century.
Local historians say events like these are long overdue.
Dr. John Pfeiffer, Old Lyme’s town historian, told News 8, “It’s bearing fruit and it’s something we’ve been working for for 30-40 years anyways. We’ve had other groups come in. This is just the culmination of a lot of work and this is just the beginning, not the end.”
In Waterbury, Francine Nido, the president of the Waterbury chapter of UNICO, a service organization for Italian Americans, said this about the recent controversy around Columbus Day:
While we respect every nationality, every ethnicity, every race creed, and cultures right to be celebrated and acknowledged, we do not believe they should take away this holiday to detract away from the accomplishments of the Italian Americans…
It shows that the Italian Americans, the contributions that we made to this community, to the state, and to the nation are valued, recognized, and appreciated.”– Francine Nido
The Christopher Columbus statue that stands in front of City Hall was decapitated by a vandal in July of 2020. It has since been restored, but not without controversy – the city took a vote about whether or not to keep the statue in front of city hall.
Nido added, “To me, to see the Columbus statue standing proudly tall in front of city hall reminds me that our mayor brought our decision to the people and the people spoke and their wishes [and their wishes] were adhered to.”
Many in the Brass City would still like it gone since Columbus is known historically for enslaving and killing many native people when he landed in the West Indies in 1492.
Athena Wagner, a Waterbury community activist, said, “I don’t like it there. I would like to see it removed and if it pertains to heritage, then put it in your backyard.”
Columbus Day started in 1892 after 11 Italian immigrants were lynched in New Orleans. It became a permanent national holiday in 1934.