Williams' Statement On The Observance Of Italian Heritage Day And Indigenous Peoples' Day

October 11th, 2021

Press Release

"Today I, like many in our city, choose not to celebrate the name or legacy of Christopher Columbus in marking the holiday. In changing the holiday's name, we haven't changed or forgotten our nation's history – only how we choose to mark it, and who we put on a pedestal. Few historical figures will entirely hold up to a litmus test of purity, and so it is critical to look at any celebrated figure in the full truth and scope of their actions – and do our best to stand with the oppressed, not those who caused the oppression. This shift won't change the devastation of indigenous and historically oppressed people that colonialism ushered in, but it stands at least as a statement of our intention to learn from, rather than repeat, past mistakes.

"That progression cannot be in name alone. In celebrating Italian heritage, we must also tangibly support Italian American communities and the rich culture that has helped shape our city. In honoring Indigenous Peoples' Day, we must not only work to undo the harm of centuries but end the ongoing systemic oppression Indigenous communities face. In truth, each of these commemorations should be marked with their own occasion rather than combined, but this represents at least some progress. With this year's change comes and opportunity for reflection, engagement, dialogue, and action to promote the values we should champion and reject the injustices we must acknowledge."

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