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Quiet Columbus Day reflects changing times

On what would have been a day of celebration and parades in past years, Columbus Day—also now celebrated by many as Indigenous Peoples’ Day—was a damp, rainy and somber remembrance.

Three Columbus statutes—in Grant Park, Arrigo Park on the Near West Side and another at 92nd Street and Exchange Avenue on the Far Southeast Side—were removed this summer after citywide protests. The annual Columbus Day parade, usually held downtown on State Street, was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think that’s a positive, I completely understand the argument they’re trying [to make] to move away from the imperialist overtones that we had,” said Charles Worthy of Lincoln Park, who was walking through Grant Park on Monday. “Makes total sense to me, I’m completely on board.”

Charles Worthy (left) and Tyler Jundt walk through Grant Park on Monday. Both voiced their support for celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day. | Anna Busalacchi

Tyler Jundt, of Atlanta, said, “the same thing is happening also just generally in the South, taking down memorials toward racist and imperialistic regimes, so I think that’s a good move, a step in the right direction.”

The Chicago Board of Education voted in February to replace Columbus Day—a day off for students with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a move that outraged some Italian Americans. Some proponents of Columbus Day celebrated in Arrigo Park on Monday, as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.

School districts across the country have been discussing the best way to address Columbus Day, as many parents and activists are calling for changes. But some schools’ districts have not shifted their stance.

“For my son, who’s 9-years-old, [Christopher Columbus] is probably being celebrated at this point, and I don’t think that’s right,” said Heather Paulus, a resident of Parker, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. She was visiting Chicago and Grant Park, near the site of the Columbus statue, which was removed by the city in July. “Tell them the truth, because it’s not right, and tell them what the people here had to deal with and show them what the reality was.”

Thirteen states and upwards of 60 cities observe Indigenous Peoples’ day, according to a 2019 CNN news story.

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