GOP lawmakers introduce measure in support of Columbus Day

A pair of House Republicans introduced a measure in support of the federally recognized Columbus Day holiday amid efforts largely on the left to promote Indigenous Peoples Day instead.

The resolution from GOP Reps. Andrew Garbarino (N.Y.) and Mark Amodei (Nev.) formally expresses support for recognition of the explorer Christopher Columbus and “his impact on the Italian-American community.” 

“Columbus Day honors not just the contributions and ingenuity of Christopher Columbus, but also of the generations of Italian Americans that followed. It is a day of great pride and celebration for the Italian American community,” Garbarino tweeted on Monday.

Garbarino added in a statement that he is “committed to making sure it is preserved for future generations.” 

President Biden late last week became the first sitting U.S. president to issue a presidential proclamation marking Indigenous Peoples Day. 

Proponents of Indigenous Peoples Day argue that there should be a holiday celebrating the historical contributions of Native Americans rather than Columbus, who enslaved the Native people he encountered during his voyages to what would be later be known as the Americas. 

“For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures,” Biden wrote in the proclamation. “Today, we recognize Indigenous peoples’ resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact that they have made on every aspect of American society.”

Biden also issued a proclamation acknowledging Columbus Day and the contributions of Italian Americans but noted the “painful history of wrongs and atrocities that many European explorers inflicted on Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities.”

“It is a measure of our greatness as a Nation that we do not seek to bury these shameful episodes of our past — that we face them honestly, we bring them to the light, and we do all we can to address them,” Biden wrote. “On this day, we recognize this painful past and recommit ourselves to investing in Native communities, upholding our solemn and sacred commitments to Tribal sovereignty, and pursuing a brighter future centered on dignity, respect, justice, and opportunity for all people.”

Some cities and states across the nation have already moved to replace celebrating Columbus Day on Monday with Indigenous Peoples Day. 

At the federal level, Democratic members of Congress have introduced legislation to make Indigenous Peoples Day a federal holiday instead of Columbus Day.

Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) both recently introduced bills to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day as a legal public holiday on the second Monday in October.

Many Republicans, meanwhile, have pushed back against the criticisms of celebrating Columbus Day by arguing its legacy deserves recognition despite the complicated history.

In his presidential proclamation marking Columbus Day last year, former President Trump condemned “radical activists” who “have sought to undermine Christopher Columbus’s legacy.” 

“These extremists seek to replace discussion of his vast contributions with talk of failings, his discoveries with atrocities, and his achievements with transgressions,” Trump wrote. “Rather than learn from our history, this radical ideology and its adherents seek to revise it, deprive it of any splendor, and mark it as inherently sinister.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) similarly argued in a series of tweets on Monday that critics of Columbus Day were “not interested in teaching real history, with context & truth” about the conflicts between European explorers and Native Americans.

“I believe America has been the greatest force for good in the history of the world. Do we have our faults? Certainly. Including especially the oppression of Native Americans & our original sin the grotesque evil of slavery. But our IDEALS transformed the world,” Cruz wrote.

Tags Donald Trump Joe Biden Mark Amodei Martin Heinrich Norma Torres Ted Cruz
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