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Group pushes county to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Cook County is scheduled to hold a hearing on the proposed change next week and will likely vote on it in June.

In July, police officers stood guard at the site of the Christopher Columbus statue at Roosevelt Road and Columbus Drive after protesters tried to topple it. The city later removed it after and put it in storage.
In July, police officers stood guard at the site of the Christopher Columbus statue at Roosevelt Road and Columbus Drive after protesters tried to topple it. The city later removed it after and put it in storage.
Tyler LaRiviere / Sun-Times file photo

A group seeking to have Cook County replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day held a virtual rally Monday to support the effort.

“It is well past time that we recognize as a county ... the failures and ills of the real history of this country,” said Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson.

“As long as we are celebrating and using tax dollars to give people the day off to honor, to give homage, to someone like Christopher Columbus, that’s a failure of our political system,” he said.

Johnson was the chief sponsor of a resolution introduced in December that would remove Columbus Day and put in its place Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

The county is holding a public hearing to gain input on the matter May 24 at 2:30 p.m. and will likely vote on the proposal in June.

The resolution would need nine votes to pass, and Les Begay, founder of the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Coalition, is confident the support will be there to see the measure through.

“We think the time is now and the tide is turning,” he said. “This is not anti Italian, it’s anti Columbus.”

Similar efforts have been made at the city and state levels but they have not gained as much traction.

The group condemns Columbus for bringing genocide, slavery and exploitation of indigenous people to the Americas.

Chicagoan Louis Rago, president of the Italian American Human Relations Foundation, said Columbus is being misunderstood through the lens of “revisionist history.”

“I just want to stress that we have no problem with Indigenous People’s Day, I just don’t know why this has to go on the back of Christopher Columbus,” Rago said.