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Assemblyman Barron and SUNY Student Assembly supporting Indigenous Peoples’ Day

SAEED SHABAZZ | 10/12/2017, 4:23 p.m.
Brooklyn Assemblyman Charles Barron held a news conference at Columbus Circle on Columbus Day to announce that he has introduced ...
Christopher Columbus statue

Brooklyn Assemblyman Charles Barron held a news conference at Columbus Circle on Columbus Day to announce that he has introduced a bill in the State Assembly to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“The difference between our bill compared to some other bills in circulation is that our bill says we should replace Columbus Day, not just to be satisfied with celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” Barron stated during a telephone interview. He related that the bill has been sent to the Standing Committee on Governmental Operations Committee and will be circulated among the Black, Latin, Asian Caucus in the Assembly.

“It is going to be challenging, difficult, to get the bill through, but sometimes you have bills that you stick with for years before getting the legislation passed,” Barron explained.

The Governmental Operations Committee is chaired by Buffalo Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes.

In the meantime, the SUNY Student Assembly celebrated for the second consecutive year Indigenous Peoples’ Day. SUNY SA is the recognized student government organization representing approximately 600,000 students across the 64 campuses of the State University of New York.

“I’m extremely humbled to lead the Student Assembly in yet another celebration of the contributions made by indigenous peoples to the State University and the entirety of New York and the United States,” said Marc Cohen, president of the Student Assembly and trustee of the State University of New York.

On Columbus Day, SUNY Fredonia and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry played host to various events to recognize the complex and rich history of the relationships between the U.S. and N.Y.

“It’s absolutely essential that we recognize the contributions that indigenous people have made to our society, both in recent and distant memory,” stated Carlos Cobo, the Assembly’s director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “I’m proud that our Executive Committee chose once again to support observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day and that some of our campuses have chosen to celebrate as a result of the Student Assembly’s efforts.”

Arthur Ramsay, a spokesman for SUNY SA, said that Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a learning experience for students, a way for them to better recognize the contributions of Native Americans.

According to some analysts, Berkeley, Calif., was the first place to recognize Indigenous People’s Day, and now 23 new locales are following suit, with Los Angeles set to join in 2019. Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City reportedly opted out of Columbus Day just a week ago. Santa Barbara, Calif., Silver City, N.M., and Miami County in Kansas have expressed interest in changing. A Washington, D.C., City Council member, Anita Bonds, introduced legislation Oct. 5 that is known as the IPD Amendment Act.

The idea of celebrating IPD was born in 1977. Columbus Day has been celebrated as a federal holiday in the U.S. since 1937.

“The point has to be made that we must tell the truth about American history. There are too many lies told to our children, and Columbus is the biggest lie—that he discovered America,” Barron said.