PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Many people will have the day off on the second Monday of October, and the fight to change the name of the holiday continues.
While Rhode Island recognizes both Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Massachusetts does not, but some local leaders are trying to change that.
Earlier this week, Sen. Jo Comerford testified on behalf of a bill that, if passed, would officially change the name of the state holiday. She, along with its sponsor in the House, Rep. Christine Barber, released a joint statement to 12 News.
“Let us change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day — a holiday to honor those who first settled this land,” they wrote. “This holiday will pay rightful tribute to the contributions of Indigenous people in Massachusetts. Past, present, and future.
Dr. Taino Palermo, director of the Center for Indigenous Peoples Rights, echoed that sentiment.
“Columbus is not the hero we were brought up learning about,” Palermo explained.
In Rhode Island, former Providence Mayor Joseph Paolino is advocating for the holiday to remain as is.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate,” Paolino said of changing the name. “I’m not going to defend Columbus if he did bad things, but if it wasn’t for Columbus we wouldn’t have America today.”
Similarly, Palermo told 12 News that while he supports the need to recognize both holidays, Columbus Day is also an important holiday for Italian Americans, and the name could be changed to Italian American Heritage Day.
“I think it’s more of a matter of ‘How do we honor indigenous people?’ Not hold up false heroes and also honor the Italian Americans,” Palermo explained.
In Massachusetts, similar bills have been presented in the past, but none have been signed into law.