Denver city council creates Indigenous Peoples' Day

9NEWS at 4 p.m. 10/4/16.

DENVER - More than 500 years after he sailed the sea, the name of Christopher Columbus still makes waves.

"To us, he represents racism," Tessa McLean, member of the Colorado American Indian Movement, said.

Monday night, the Denver City Council approved the creation of an official Indigenous People's Day to be celebrated on the second Monday of every October of every year. That is the same day Columbus Day is also observed annually.

RELATED: The road to establishing Indigenous Peoples' Day in Denver

"I think it was awesome. It's a great foundation," McLean said. "I would like to keep building blocks and eventually get the entire Columbus Day holiday abolished in the state of Colorado."

Dr. Rita DeFrange feels quite the opposite. She is the president of the Columbus Day Parade Committee.

"It disregards the Italian and European communities and their feelings about celebrating this federal holiday," DeFrange said.

QUIZ: How much do you know about Indigenous Peoples' Day

She says Columbus Day is a great source of pride for Italian-Americans across the United States.

"Celebrating individuals who make a mark in history is very important to us," DeFrange said. "It's about the culture and the people."

McLean calls it a celebration of a man who led the brutal demise of indigenous tribes.

"I would like to abolish his day," McLean said. "He doesn't deserve a holiday here in Colorado and I would like to dismantle his racist legacy."

Anna Vann is a member of the Sons of Italy community organization. She says Columbus was not a racist.

"I think they are reading things that they want to read and not reading the truth," Vann said.

She believes national organizations may look into filing a lawsuit over this city council decision.

"This is a national holiday just like the Fourth of July or Labor Day or Memorial Day," Vann said. "There's no reason for anything to be different for Columbus Day as it is for any other holiday."

Vann can't believe the city council voted on this without seeking input from Italian-American organizations or community members.

"Shame on Mr. Lopez," Vann said.

Denver City Council Member Paul Lopez initiated the ordinance to create Indigenous People's Day. He says it is all about honoring Denver's heritage.

"It's important that these contributions of indigenous peoples through the arts, through culture, through science, through philosophy, do not fade away in history books," Lopez said.

He says the city does not recognize Columbus Day and he believes it doesn't need to.

"As far as I know, Denver was not founded by Christopher Columbus," Lopez said.

DeFrange says the city council should have created the new day of recognition on a different day and leave Columbus Day alone.

"We had put forth a suggestion to have Indigenous People's Day some day during the month of November when we celebrate Indigenous People's (Month)," DeFrange said.

November is recognized as Native American Heritage Month.

McLean suggests taking the Columbus out of Columbus Day.

"It's also been suggested that we switch Columbus Day as a holiday and change it to 'Italian-American Day'," McLean said. "It could still be the same day, but a different name."

The Columbus Day Parade and the Four Directions All Nations March will both take place on Saturday, October 8. Both McLean and DeFrange expect their sides to be peaceful. DeFrange vows that Italian-Americans will not give up on Columbus Day for next year and beyond.

"We're going to plan our parade starting the day after just like we did last year," DeFrange said.

Copyright 2016 KUSA


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