NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Across Connecticut, American Indians and Italian Americans observed holidays Monday — for separate reasons in separate ways.
Monday was both Christopher Columbus Day and Indigenous People’s Day, holidays that can be filled with cultural pride, or with strong feels about colonization.
“Indigenous People’s Day is not an alternative,” said Joaquin Lara Midkiff, the chairman of the Yale Native Indigenous Student Association. “It’s in contrast or in opposition to what we view as a celebration or privileging of colonization — Columbus Day.”
The association performed in protest Monday in a courtyard at Yale University. The group is comprised of more than 100 students who have indigenous backgrounds.
Across the state, Italian Americans have a different view.
“We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us,” said Marc Garofalo, with the Valley Regional Lodge 151 Sons and Daughters of Italy in America. “You know, you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you came from.”
Don Sawyer III, the vice president of equity, inclusion and leadership at Quinnipiac University, said Columbus Day can be misconstrued against Italian Americans.
“Not celebrating Christopher Columbus is not the same thing as not celebrating our Italian American brothers and sisters,” he said.
He said it’s also a day to educate about the weight of history.
“It allows us an opportunity to do some research and to understand why people would have had issues with celebrating Columbus Day,” Sawyer said.
East Haven held a Columbus Day parade to observe the holiday, and Derby hosted a flag-raising ceremony.
Evolving conversations around Columbus Day have led to states across the nation switching the holiday to Indigenous People’s Day. New Haven has also taken steps to distance itself from the explorer, when it removed a statue of Columbus in 2020 from Wooster Square.