CHICAGO — Monday marked a holiday that means different things to different people — Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day — depending on who you ask.
Many still celebrate Christopher Columbus, while others remember lives forever changed by colonialism. Across Chicago, the Columbus Day Parade marched on, even as many have moved on from celebrating the explorer.
The city, county and state all observe Columbus Day even as communities shift towards Indigenous Peoples Day. Italian-American groups marked the day with statues of Columbus in storage.
“We all stand here together in unity so that we can be proud and share our pride,” said Ron Onesti with the Joint Civic Community of Italian-Americans.
Italian Americans in Little Italy’s Arrigo Park called on city leaders Monday to reinstall the Columbus statues.
“Monuments and statues are important,” Onesti said. “Merely concrete and bronze. It’s the feelings. It’s the passion. It’s what we stand for. It’s what they stand for.”
In 2020, then-Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered the statues removed after activists targeted them and clashed with police amid racial reckoning spurred by the murder of George Floyd.
For more than two centuries, Columbus Day honored the man credited with discovering the New World. But little was said about the forceful taking of land and the devastation brought upon Indigenous people.
Supporters of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, like political commentator Maze Jackson with The Intelligence Group, say the George Floyd killing accelerated rethinking the holiday.
“I think what we’re recognizing in America is the truth that Christopher Columbus did not discover America,” Jackson said. “I do recognize that the Italian-American community does have a right and a history in this country, so I hope that there’s a way that they can figure out the day.”
Asked for an update on the Columbus statues, a spokesman for Mayor Brandon Johnson released a statement saying in part, “Chicago’s monuments and memorials are more than just public art — they speak directly to the values, history, and vision of our great city.”
The mayor’s office also notes the parties are engaged in settlement discussions, so they have no further comment.