Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro’s proclamation replaces Indigenous Peoples’ Day with Columbus Day

This post was updated on Oct. 3 to reflect accuracy regarding the College’s process of adding Indigenous Peoples’ Day to the calendar. 

On Oct. 1, at the Waterville City Council meeting, Mayor Nick Isgro proclaimed Oct. 14 as Columbus Day in the city. This proclamation stands in opposition to a state law passed by Governor Janet Mills in April renaming the day Indigineous Peoples’ Day.

The proclamation reads: “Whereas the arrival of Christopher Columbus on the shores of the New World in 1492 marked the beginning of relations between the Americas and the rest of the world, and opened the doorway to knowledge and exploration known as the Age of Discovery; and Whereas after Columbus, millions of European immigrants brought their art, music, science, medicine, philosophy and religious principles to America, which contributions have helped shape the United States and include Greek democracy, Roman law, Christian ethics and the belief that all men are created equal.”

The proclamation continues to describe the merits of Columbus and his legacy and highlights the importance of Italian Americans.

Upon signing the April bill which changed Columbus day to Indigenous People’s Day, Mills said, “today, we take a step towards healing, towards inclusiveness, towards writing that fuller and deeper history.”

Columbus has been proven to have caused widespread suffering for the indigenous populations of the Americas. The History Channel summarizes: “There are three main sources of controversy involving Columbus’s interactions with the indigenous people he labeled ‘Indians’: the use of violence and slavery, the forced conversion of native peoples to Christianity and the introduction of a host of new diseases that would have dramatic long-term effects on native people in the Americas.”

The offenses can be attributed directly to Columbus’ policies as Viceroy and Governor of the Spanish Indies. He he was responsible for policies which brutally quashed indigenous rebellion, put in place a system of forced labor for the sake of revenue, and sold thousands of indigenous people from Hispañola in Spain.

Isgro’s move has prompted pushback from the Penobscot Nation, City Council members, and the College’s students and faculty. This is not the first time Isgro has shown support for controversial, exclusionary policies and viewpoints . For example, in March, Isgro tweeted from the Maine Republican Party’s account about a false connection between immigrants and the spread of diseases.

Members of Colby’s Four Winds Native American Alliance, which is a club located in the Pugh Center, reflected on the proclamation.

“Don’t support the valorization of genocide,” urged Carol Lipushultz ‘20 in an email to the Echo.

“Other members furthered this sentiment: “The United States has and continues to commit so much violence against Native peoples, so I find it laughable that white folks think they have the right to take away the one national celebration that center Native peoples. Every day should be Indigenous People’s Day,” wrote Olivia Balcos ‘20 to the Echo.

Balcos also commented that Four Winds has tried to have Indigenous People’s Day recognized on the College’s calendar, however the process has been slightly difficult. While the administration believed it would be easy to remove Columbus Day from the calendar, proposing the addition of Indigenous People’s day might be met with some resistance amongst Trustee members.  

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