Coalition seeks to eliminate Columbus Day from school calendars

Diversity group suggests holiday name change for schools, along with Islandwide DEI coordinator. 

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The Martha's Vineyard Diversity Coalition is looking to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day on school calendars to "stress daily acknowledgement of the privilege we have of living on this Island of Indigenous people — the Wampanoags. -Gabrielle Mannino

The Martha’s Vineyard Diversity Coalition (MVDC) is currently working on a proposal to Island schools in support of renaming Columbus Day Indigenous Peoples Day on school calendars.

In addition to the holiday renaming, the group is looking to address a number of other diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues in schools. 

According to Jocelyn Walton, co-chair of the MVDC education committee, their mission is to ensure that every Island child gets the education they deserve, in an environment where they feel valued and safe. “To that end, we recognize the need to acknowledge, honor, and support the diverse peoples on this Island,” Walton said. 

As part of an action plan to address DEI in education, Walton said, the coalition’s education subcommittee is spearheading an initiative to eliminate Columbus Day on school calendars, incorporate National Native American Heritage Month (November) in school programs and activities, stress daily acknowledgement “of the privilege we have of living on this Island of indigenous people — the Wampanoags,” and create a year-round DEI coordinator position that would handle curriculum, professional development, and recruitment for all the Island schools.

Within a month or two, Walton said, she hopes to have a more detailed presentation for school committee members.

In other business, COVID surveillance testing began at Island schools this week. So far, all six schools have been tested, with 450 staff members and students tested in total.

“We are looking to bump that number up to 600 eventually,” Superintendent Matt D’Andrea said. 

D’Andrea also mentioned the “test and stay” program that allows students and staff to be tested in school whenever they are identified as close contacts, or are symptomatic. 

Individuals are tested for five consecutive school days, and as long as they remain asymptomatic and test negative, they can continue to attend school or work, as opposed to being required to quarantine. 

So far, according to D’Andrea, about half of the students and staff across the Island have provided consent for testing. “We will continue to reach out and work with families to encourage them to consent,” D’Andrea said.

Currently, schools in Massachusetts are not permitted to require testing for those who have not consented.

There is currently no remote learning option for students, so school committee chair Amy Houghton said it behooves families to consent.

Recently, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education authorized Massachusetts education commissioner Jeff Riley to extend the indoor mask mandate for all K-12 schools until Nov. 1, and will be making a decision later in October as to what will happen after the mandate expires.

Part of the ruling stipulates that by Oct. 15, if schools have 80 percent or more of their staff and students vaccinated, they may opt to allow all vaccinated individuals to choose not to mask. 

The only Island school that would qualify for this exemption currently would be the high school, because students under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine. “We are currently working on determining what percentage of our staff and students collectively are vaccinated,” D’Andrea said. 

At their November meeting, the committee will discuss details of the mask policy and look over vaccination numbers. 

 

90 COMMENTS

  1. My son is an Italian-American who attends MVRHS. Christopher Columbus is part of his ethnic heritage, a hero to many Italians. Just wondering if, as one of “the diverse peoples on this Island”, he is also entitled to “the education he deserves, in an environment where he feels valued and safe”?

    • And I’m Irish American AND I recognize that I live on Wampanoag land. This isn’t a pie, meaning there’s not a finite amount of ethnic heritage to be had. Paying overdue respect and recognition to Indigenous people doesn’t take away from your Italian heritage nor my Irish heritage. Besides from what I learned in school…Columbus was lost, he didn’t land where he thought he was. And that’s okay, too.

      • If it is not finite then why does one ethnic holiday need to be eliminated in favor of another? Why not maintain both? In this case it is taking away one in favor of another.

          • Columbus was a great Italian explorer who is credited with reaching the United States in 1492. Columbus Day gained widespread popularity as a result of groups of Italian-Americans celebrating the day in big cities. This led to the day being adopted nationwide. Since the 1800s, Italian Americans have celebrated Columbus Day as an ethnic holiday with fairs and parades. That’s no lie.

    • I’m half Italian, have been to Italy twice(it’s wonderful). Columbus was a genocidal psychopath! This is not a debatable point, it is a fact! If Columbus is a hero to you or you son you or your son need to take a hard look in the mirror and think again about who your heroes are.

      • I get it. It’s about shaming people so you can feel better about yourself. I think a great explorer deserves to be called a hero as much as any professional athlete, movie star or such celebrity. By the way, whether or not “Columbus was a genocidal psychopath” is certainly a debatable point, and not a “fact” at all. But you are certainly entitled to hold that opinion.

    • There is much to celebrate in one’s Italian heritage and the extraordinary Italian contributions to humanity– music, literature, art, math, philosophy, science, and the art of cuisine. Honoring Columbus, based on a false telling of history is reason enough to object to “Columbus Day”. What’s to celebrate? Columbus discovered bupkis (nothing), since there were already people living wherever he went. If I remember correctly, he never even he came to what is now the U.S, so how honoring him came to be an American holiday is not reality based. Plus, he initiated the killing and enslavement of native people, including making sex slaves of native girls, beginning our sad history of slavery. Columbus Day, as we were taught in school, was a fairy tale. There is no sense in continuing to promote a hurtful lie, especially when your wonderful son– and all high school students– have Galileo, Leonardo DaVinci, Michaelangelo, Verdi, Dante, Fermi and on and on. No one needs a false hero in Columbus to be proud of a great heritage. And most important, Columbus Day is a holiday that is terribly cruel toward American indiginous people. It’s best to let go of some traditions when they are this hurtful and based on a lie.

        • Italy is not just a country, it is also a name of the land area comprising a peninsula south of the Alps, and Sicily, Sardinia, Elba, and other smaller islands. Christopher Columbus, the son of a wool merchant, is believed to have been born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451.

    • Your son deserves to be better educated about his “ethnic heritage”. He should understand why Christopher Columbus is not a hero for everybody without feeling it reflects on his own self-worth. We cannot be responsible for our ancestors’ misdeeds, but we can learn from them if we want to.

      • I have no problem with teaching the truth about Columbus, a heroic explorer but also a man of his time. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who can stand as “a hero for everybody.” Perhaps people can continue to accept the ethnic holiday without feeling it reflects on their self worth? Or are some ethnic sensitivities more equal than others?

        • Which is it? You basically stated that your son’s ethnic pride in this “hero” is important and should be protected. Now you’re arguing the exact opposite, that self-worth shouldn’t be reflected in an ethnic holiday at all.

          CC’s Italian heritage has been debated for a long time. There are several suggested alternatives, some more evidence-based than others. The University of Granada had plans to run a DNA test. It made the news earlier this year. Not sure if the results are in.

          • I never wrote the remarks you attribute to me. I am saying we should be sensitive to all ethnicities, which is not achieved by marginalizing one in order to substitute another.

          • The double standard is yours, Dan. You labeled Columbus as a hero to an ethnic group, defending the existing holiday on that specific basis. Several times. You also said that others should just “accept” an “ethnic holiday without feeling it reflects on their self worth.”

            Why not apply that same dismissive logic to your own side of the issue? Don’t like this proposed change? Ignore it. “Accept” it.

            I have always considered Columbus Day to be absurd but indeed accepted it long ago. It’s typical for America to pay lip service to high ideals while embracing the opposite. Seeing that repeated often enough, I’ve never expected any official change here. Still don’t. At the same time, I understand and support those who feel strongly about this matter. Their reasons are verifiable.

            Besides, Italy deserves far better representation than Columbus. A day in honor of Italian-Americans, which I agree is worthwhile, should focus on the positive impact of such a rich culture. I actually think it’s insulting that this federal holiday ended up tying any group to such a man, let alone this one. Many have suffered under the false public belief that being Italian is synonymous with crime and violence. Even now, those awful stereotypes survive in media and are rarely questioned. Columbus’ brutality isn’t a fitting tribute or association.

            You continue to insist on facts from everyone else while glossing over that your argument hinges solely on his heritage, which isn’t viewed as fact by some historians. Personally, I don’t care if he turns out to be Italian or not. Whether he was from Genoa, Spain, Portugal, or anywhere else, his actions and their consequences stand. Those are what matter. The objections here are clearly to the person and the history, not to any ethnicity. It seems like you’re intentionally conflating the two. True, we should be sensitive to all ethnicities because communities are equally important. That doesn’t mean we have to celebrate a brutal individual and his poor sense of direction.

    • You should choose your heroes more wisely. Take a moment and read some of Columbus’ diary. A true monster.

  2. The “Diversity Coalition” seems to be promoting anything but diversity. If they wish to rename the holiday or perhaps create a separate Indigenous Peoples Day then they should jump through the hoops of the legislative process and prove why we need such a holiday. It would be wrong for the school system to cave in to a minority of citizens who are unhappy with a certain holiday.

    • Indigenous Peoples day is great Idea.
      We already have so many holidays we should just drop Columbus Day.
      Columbus’ actions resulted in the end of the way of life of so many Indigenous Peoples.
      John, what makes you think that it is a minority that want to stop celebrating the life of a man who caused the death of much of our Indigenous People’s culture?
      Do you have any polling data?
      Did you poll anyone outside you family and close friends?

      • Exactly which of the Indigenous People are to be celebrated? Those (various) Indigenous were pretty adept at causing the deaths of other Indigenous when they wanted what Indigenous(2) had. Tribal life was (and is) brutal – have you checked out Afghanistan lately?Tribes, and they do not get along long enough to beat the Taliban. You have a precious, but not realistic, view of life before your limited life span. Your indigenous were tribal. Every last one of them.

  3. Italian-Americans comprise the fifth largest ethnic group in the US and have celebrated Columbus Day since 1792. In 1892, the Pledge of Allegiance was written to commemorate the 400-year anniversary of the trans-Atlantic voyage. I trust that we can agree that we must not and cannot favor one heritage at the cost of another. I respectfully ask MVDC to consider naming the Monday preceding Thanksgiving as Indigenous People’s Day.

    • The pledge of allegiance has nothing to do with what Columbus did.
      I do not favor celebrating a man who was so destructive to the people he came into contact on his voyages.

      I respectfully ask MVDC to consider pointing out Columbus’ unacceptable behavior every day of the year.

      • Your comment is incorrect and should not have been allowed to be posted by the MV Times. For your information, Francis Bellamy published his version of the Pledge of Allegiance in The Youth’s Companion as part of the National Public-School Celebration of Columbus Day, a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas.

          • By that logic, the five so-called “civilized” tribes should not be included/celebrated in Indigenous Peoples day due to their enslavement of other Natives and Blacks before and during the Civil War, and their support of the Confederacy. These practices occurred hundreds of years after The trans-Atlantic voyage during the Middle Ages.
            To be clear, I support IDP but think it would be wiser if it was celebrated on a separate day.

        • There is no reference to Columbus in the Pledge of Allegiance.
          Francis Bellamy was a screaming Socialist.

          • First, I never said there was a reference to Columbus. Second, your deflection on Bellamy’s politics is a red herring. Lastly, the federal government still recognizes the second Monday in October as Columbus Day. Have a wonderful Columbus Day! 😉

  4. Instead of tearing things down and destroying holidays, why don’t the Woke use their own creative skills to develop NEW holiday? Probably too much trouble to put in the effort? Pitiful.

    • 💡 I’ve got it! How about we take a questionably white male human being, deify him, worship him, and shove this religious belief down the throats of every single American, turning his birth AND his death into national holidays, long weekends, and even months of celebrating him. We’d have school, federal and business closures all across an entire nation, along with false assurances of separation of church and state. Make it so there’s no chance of escaping this worshiping, even if you stay home for 2 months. You’d have to close your eyes to tv, radio, virtually every aspect of living and working in America. Then imagine the hissy fits if the country shut down for Yom Kippur.

      The Christian white privilege and accepted sense of entitlement is very is alive and well in the calls to hold onto celebrating Columbus. These are many of the same people who think that children acting out lynching behaviors is simply innocent child’s play. When marginalized people notice how systemic racism is in this country, you can count on these outraged objections from many in the privileged white and mostly Christian community.

      • And while we’re at it Jackie, let’s have every retail store across the nation promote massive sales honoring his name. After all if there’s a way to make money off a fabricated life, Americans will find a way to do it.

    • Gene– wow– good try at portraying liberals as too lazy to create a new holiday. Really creative.
      Have you petitioned any government agencies to recognize a new holiday, such as “orange buffoons’ day” ?
      The slackers on the nut case side of politics can’t even get that idiot on Mt, Rushmore.
      Talk about lazy slackers..
      At least some people are trying to do something that they feel will go a little way to recognizing an historical injustice.
      Good for you to be the first here to attempt defamation of those you disagree with. Good trump move.. I am sure he would be proud of you..

    • Gene we woke up to the fact that Columbus was not a very nice person.
      We do not celebrate not nice people.
      We have almost stopped celebrating our Confederate States of America war ‘heroes’.

    • Gene –Just in case you forgot about the last holiday to be added to the national calendar , it was signed into law by Ronald Reagan on Nov 2 1983 and is observed on the third Monday of January.
      It was first introduced by Michigan congressman John Conyers (D) On April 8 1968. and took 15 years to get federal approval and an additional 17 years to get approval from all states. It was finally recognized by the state of Arizona in 2000, after a 32 year battle..
      Getting a new holiday passed is not an easy task, but the “woke” people persisted and got it.
      How is that for “woke” persistence ?

      What do the “pitiful” maga people have going ?
      Perhaps a Derek Chauvin day ?

  5. That hero of yours never stepped foot in North America, never even touched any of the continental US. He also enslaved and killed members of the indigenous people he encountered after stumbling upon the “new world”. So maybe you can see why celebrating this guy is offensive to Native people. It’s time to start teaching and learning actual history rather than making up stories and glorifying individuals who allowed raping and pillaging of Native communities.

    • You do know that Columbus landed on what are now the Bahamas, right? The Bahamas are part of N. America

        • Actually, there’s much debate about where he landed, but most evidence points to somewhere in the Bahamas.
          But, be it the Bahamas or Hispaniola, it all is part of North America.

      • The folks who believe that Columbus discovered America are the same ones who would never consider Hispaniola “part of America”. You cant have it both ways. He never set foot on continental North America. He set out looking for a western route to China, stumbled onto the islands and proceeded to “claim” the land for Queen Isabella of Spain in exchange for 10% of all the “riches” he could find. Never mind that there already natives living there. This was what the Spanish did. They came, they plundered, they conquered, they introduced disease & they exterminated.

    • Carla– Every island in the Caribbean is on the North American continent.
      As well as all of Central America, Canada and The United states– (except Hawaii– that’s on the Australian continent) .

      • The Columbus fans I have this discussion with are referring to what is now the “continental US”. Which is what I meant. But because the US was not a thing, neither was “North America” in 1492, the semantics get mixed up.

      • Yes. I know this. Im referring to the continental US, but the US did not exist in 1492, neither did the term North America. So the Bahamas were technically not assigned to any continent yet.

  6. I think that Columbus’s attitudes, value of human life , racist views (common at the time) along with his pompous view that his “god” was the only true god are disgusting.
    But, let’s remember that Columbus lived in a different time and different cultural mores.
    As a reflective individual I see both sides here. Mr. Larkosh’s point is well taken here.
    As a Caucasian I see the value in honoring a man who had the courage to take a queen for her money, venture into the unknown , discover a “new world” and get back to tell the story.
    Ultimately he led the way for the majority of people living on this continent.

    But he was more of a scum bag than that guy with the orange hair and makeup who LOST the election in 2020.

    But, what do you do ? Try to scrub him from history ? Do we try to scrub the fact that thousands of our Caucasian ancestors willingly, methodically and mercilessly slaughtered perhaps millions of indigenous people to near extinction ?

    Can we scrub Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler ? Or any other genocidal maniac ?

    I have to say, I am on the fence about this one..
    Not because I think highly of columbus, but because i value a true history.

    I always appreciate an informative and lively debate..
    Please–
    Express yourself !!!

    • We don’t have holidays celebrating Stalin, Pol Pot and Hitler, just sayin’. Always enjoy reading your responses!

      • Compared to Stalin and Pol Pot Columbus was piker when it came to dealing with the unruly.
        We should celebrate that Columbus was better than those guys.

    • Good, thoughtful arguments, Don….I admit, I’m not sure which direction this dilemma should take as I can see both sides as well.

    • Don, he was a genocidaire and kidnapper. What exactly will happen if we take the most obviously white supremacist holiday off of the calendar? Do you imagine that the only reason children know about Columbus is because he has a holiday? Not that children actually learn anything about Columbus. A translation of his journals survives, are fairly readable, and the author’s own words condemn him as an inhumane brute, murderous with gold-lust.

  7. I don’t believe Christopher Columbus discovered America….Much to the chagrin of the locals, I think he discovered the Bahamas… Also he had to go to Spain/Portugal to get his trip funded because Italy as we know it today did not exist…. maybe he got close enough to South Florida to see where the orange hair guy lives.. who knows? and is Columbus day really an ethnic holiday? I thought it was a long weekend in October where appallingly wealthy North Americans go back to their trophy mansions on Martha’s Vineyard….just sayin’

  8. Well, I see a some people seem to think that because Columbus was Italian, and there are a lot of Italians in America that we should keep it as Columbus day.
    After all, Columbus could only kill so many people by himself, and it seems unlikely that he came up with something akin to a “final solution” and inspired the thousands of people who came behind him.
    And the indigenous people did lots of nasty things to the white people.
    I know, they were defending themselves–
    But how many people in this country consider Ho Chi Minh a hero ?
    I offer a compromise.. Since Columbus was Italian, he must have loved pasta !
    So lets call this day “Pastafari day “, in honor of everyone who has ever eaten any kind of Pasta. And keep in mind, there has never been a war over Pasta.
    It’s all about peace, love, and Pasta.

  9. This is just an advisory committee with no final say in the school system. It may set a tricky precedent where any group with an agenda can demand equal airtime before school committees. What happens when MAGA supporters demand the schools teach that the 2020 election was stolen? To keep them from having a hearing is discriminatory.

    • Dear Alex,
      Please do some research on all the public funded offices , schools and cities that had ALREADY done this change in honor of the people who lived on this land before a monarchy declared it “ discovered. I’ve posted two links below . But feel free to look for yourself . The Precedant has been set. The question is will our mostly white , non- indigenous leaders have the heart , soul and responsibility to join this movement to correct history , honor those we have dishonored since we ( all non indigenous folks) landed and immigrated here. I encourage all folks who are hurt and defensive or unsure about this discussion to attend “ A Long Talk”, this is a free online conversation to educate anyone who is unsure of the SYSTEMATIC racism that has plagued our American society, right down to the history we teach our children in public schools, including the celebrated ,Christopher Columbus . He has had is day in the spotlight . We will never forget him , it’s simply time to shift the narrative.

      • Well, I’m not all pro or anti Columbus as much as I’m concerned that any group with an angle on history or reality gets to call the shots on having a hearing in front of the committee. Who decides who gets to make their case? Will only liberal and progressive groups get a hearing? Or conservatives to balance it out? Who decides what’s legit and whats crackpot? Where do the lines get drawn and who gets to draw them?

      • Your point is well taken. However, I would like to make three counterpoints for your consideration. First, my interpretation of your post implies that do not you consider Italians as an ethnic group. It was not long ago that Italians (and Catholics, among others) were also the target of white supremacy. As the US became more diverse, hate groups, in order for the organizations to survive, expanded what could be “viewed” as “white.” Your definition (and that of other commenters) of “white” seems to dangerously reinforce that position. People are not all good or all bad. If you would not as quickly suggest to replace Presidents Day, then perhaps the moral action is to create a separate day for IPD. If done, I am sure you would see any opposition quickly change to support. Second, as I mentioned earlier in this post (and I made this same point in another post), people are not all good or all bad which includes IP as well. The five “civilized” tribes (Cherokee, Seminole, Chickasaw, Creek, Choctaw) all enslaved other Natives as well as Blacks before and during the Civil War, and supported the Confederacy. How do you reconcile those facts? Columbus lived in the Middle Ages, these events occurred in the Victorian Age. To be clear, I support IPD but do not support eliminating a (recognized federal) Holiday for one ethnic group in favor of another. The act of replacing conveys the wrong message. Lastly, many people celebrate/recognize Columbus Day as a holiday for immigrants. Thank you for considering the above.

        • Trey, Columbus Day is not an Italian-American holiday.

          It is not a federally recognized *ethnic* holiday at all.

          Yes, some with Italian heritage celebrate it, but its official purpose is to honor Columbus’ arrival, not any particular group.

          Since it factually does not represent any singular community but it does manage to disrespect some, how can anyone defend keeping it on the basis of caring about cultural sensitivity? Illogical.

          I know more people with Italian heritage than any other background. None of them are in favor of Columbus Day. Their pride is represented in other forms.

          If you want to promote the idea that we need a new, actual Italian-American celebration, that’s a separate matter. Many may be happy to support such a thing. I’d be fine with it. But none of the arguments against this existing day are anti-Italian. I think it’s a shame some are twisting it to pit one group against another when that is not the real issue. Never has been.

          Why claim that a federal holiday, aka something that is forced on all Americans, represents something it does not? Every year, the White House publishes confirmation of the official purpose:

          “In commemoration of Christopher Columbus’s historic voyage, the Congress, by joint resolution of April 30, 1934, and modified in 1968 (36 U.S.C. 107), as amended, has requested the President proclaim the second Monday of October of each year as ‘Columbus Day.’ ”

          That we are now being told by the government that Native communities can share a holiday with Columbus, without eliminating the original honor, is more offensive than I can possibly find words for. It’s like deciding to remember Holocaust victims and Hitler at the same time, as if one of those sentiments doesn’t render the other worthless.

          Just another example of why I lost faith in real change where this matter is concerned.

          Your repeated use of the old “civilized tribes” label reveals a lot, quote marks or not, given the context of your point.

          • Thanks for your reply. However, like other commenters, you sidestep a historical fact among other points in my post. Furthermore, your offensive and misinformed insinuation is hurtful and takes away from healthy, well-intentioned debate. Your comment, which ends with an intentional personal attack, is an example of why there is currently so much divisiveness in our country. Shame on you.

  10. I read a Lot of interesting and poignant comments about Columbus and whether or not we should continue to acknowledge and extoll his ventures into “the new world.” But I kept thinking that something was being missed and came up with two thoughts to share. The first is that when I was learning about Columbus in elementary school 6 decades ago, the emphasis was on his courage to go against the consensus (the science if you will) of the experts of his day. Thus he set out to prove that the earth was not flat. As C.S. Lewis said; “When everyone is running toward the cliff, the man running the other way is considered crazy.” So Columbus was not so crazy and started the age of exploration which as you all pointed out, had both good and bad consequences.
    The second thought; there was as usual, so much effort put into making others look “bad” or “wrong” (with rare exception) that I wonder; what will they be saying about this era in human history and how we treated each other just a hundred years from now . Will they remember that we were kind and considerate of each other and inclusive of divergent thoughts? Or will they be talking about how curt and dismissive we were by trying to censure and control how people thought? If it’s the latter, we will have actually made no progress in human relations and will have thwarted a great number of solutions that would have bettered mankind. Which will it be? How will we be remembered?

  11. Racism is wrong, but I’m not so sure that the heavy breathing, finger wagging, emotionally hyperactive and reactionary moralists in these posts are the answer. I think there’s a nice middle ground where sensible and sane people can gather.

    • Was this comment that you packed with inflammatory descriptions meant to be an example of that sensible and dispassionate reasoning? lol

      When the topic involves the destruction of human beings, expect some firm opinions. Thank goodness not everyone wants to make excuses for it anymore.

  12. I am sure comments will close soon on this one.
    I would just like to say that comments on this topic have been more informative ,reflective and civil than most, and I, for one have appreciated it.

    Having said that — Where’s Andy ?

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