It is with total dismay that I inform your readers about the New Paltz Central School District’s decision to consider changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day at its next meeting on December 7. Such a change would be a denigration of America’s heritage. When Columbus landed in the Caribbean in 1492, it was a true discovery of a New World that Europeans had never ever seen before. That landing stimulated further curiosity, exploration, settlement and colonization. Soon a mass migration of peoples from the Old World saw new hope and opportunity to improve their lives, bringing their dreams, ideals and culture, which eventually created the greatest country on the face of this earth. A whole new hemisphere was developed and prospered, and two worlds were joined. The history of the western hemisphere then begins with the Columbian contact and represents the dawn of our American heritage! Such a phenomenon deserves a holiday in Columbus’ name and must therefore remain on the school district’s calendar as is.
For the school district to make this change will keep their students and posterity in the dark about the aforementioned details, and I am sure New Paltz taxpayers would not want that deficiency to occur for their charges. It would be an educational travesty!
We at the Commission for Social Justice (CSJ) of the Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA) suggest that Indigenous Peoples’ Day should appear on a separate day from Columbus Day, particularly the Friday after Thanksgiving. It’s a perfect time to say “thank you” to our Native Americans for enabling the early New England colonists to survive their inchoate Plymouth colony in the winter of 1620-21 in an unfamiliar environment. If the district really believes in true cultural sensitivity and tolerance, the school board members should do it by inclusion and addition, not by subtraction or substitution.