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Saturday 21 October 2017
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Negative Feedback Pressures Syracuse School Board to Defer Proposal to Replace Columbus Day

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Wednesday night, the Syracuse school board shelved a proposal to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day after receiving negative feedback from the community about the idea.

After Patricia Body, the board vice president, heard from many people who were upset by the district’s plan to stop recognizing Columbus Day, she asked the board to defer the proposal.

Body said she supports the idea of removing Columbus Day and instead recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day, but she would like the school board to execute it in a way “…where we are not disenfranchising somebody.”

There was only one board member who voted against tabling the item. Commissioner Katie Sojewicz said Columbus Day makes not only Native Americans, but also many other people, uncomfortable.

Every year, students across the United States have off of school for many holidays, including Columbus Day. While days off and vacations are the activities that make families most happy, with 37% of families saying vacations make them happy, there is controversy over celebrating Columbus Day.

Nationwide, more and more schools are replacing Columbus Day on their calendars with Indigenous Peoples Day.

Since 1991, cities, universities, and a few states have chosen to adopt Indigenous Peoples Day. Activists have long argued that holidays and other memorials to Columbus sanitize his actions, which involved the enslavement and ill-treatment of Native Americans, while crediting him the discovery of a place that already had inhabitants.

While this holiday is said by Native American groups to embrace colonialism, there are Italian-Americans who see the notion to remove Columbus Day as disrespectful to their heritage.

After a story was published about the proposal on Monday, board members heard complaints from residents, although no complaints were raised that were related to heritage.

The proposal stated that the board was attempting “…to combat prejudice and eliminate discrimination stemming from colonization and to promote awareness, understanding, and good relations among Indigenous Peoples and all other stakeholders of the District.”

The resolution also included statements about Syracuse and Onondaga County being the original home of the Onondaga Nation, and how the board wanted to acknowledge the Onondaga’s part in creating the region’s culture and history.

Derrick Dorsey, board president, made a statement about needing more community discussion, saying, “There’s a lot of voices that have not had an opportunity to be heard.”

Dorsey said the board will wait to revisit the proposal this spring.

A proposal was submitted earlier this year by Nyshawn Pierce, a former Henninger High School student, asking the district to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

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