Pittsfield School Committee renames Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day

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PITTSFIELD — Christopher Columbus may have sailed the ocean blue in 1492, but should that mean he gets a day in his name?

The Pittsfield School Committee recently decided the answer to that question is no, voting unanimously to change the school holiday formerly known as Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. In doing so, they join dozens of other entities around the country, including several states, to honor the colonized rather than the colonizer.

"The Europeanization of America led to the largest genocide in our nation's history," said School Committee member Cynthia Taylor, who brought the measure forward. She said the centuries of Native American death that followed the fated arrival is more worthy of remembering than the "false histories" surrounding Columbus.

Columbus didn't "discover" America, she noted. Native Americans were already here, and there were European explorers who arrived before Columbus.

Superintendent Jason McCandless said his administration is supportive of the change. He said modern history classes take a more nuanced look at the context for the arrival of Columbus in North America, and called the name change "a teachable moment" to reframe the holiday.

"Hundreds across the nation have endeavored to recast this day as a day about the people who were already here rather than the one of many who explored the region," he said. "There were people in the Americas who were not waiting around to be discovered, quote unquote. They had a way of living that was their own."

McCandless said he's "very proud to be part of an organization that is willing to step out on limbs to have conversations about serious things."

Williamstown voted in May 2017 at annual town meeting to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

Reach Amanda Drane at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter or at 413-496-6296.


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