The Chicago Board of Education voted last week to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day at Chicago Public Schools.
The vote affects the CPS calendar but not the city’s holiday schedule. And while the school board is appointed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, she said Friday she has no plans to eliminate Columbus Day citywide. That means the city will still recognize Columbus Day and will hold its annual Columbus Day Parade.
For indigenous groups, the CPS decision is a victory, but what’s next?
Janie Pochel, lead advisor for Chi-Nations Youth Council, is enthusiastic about the changes.
“We had our annual meeting at the American Indian Center where everyone applauded, it’s one of the only things everyone agrees on,” Pochel said.
Ald. Nicholas Sposato, 38th Ward, is unalterably opposed to such a change. He says the Board of Education vote was a slap in the face of Italian Americans.
Sposato says he’s not opposed to the idea of Indigenous Peoples Day, but criticizes the lack of communication on the issue. “There was no meeting and they just arbitrarily did it, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
Sposato said he’s in contact with attorneys for what he sees as a fight ahead. He said he thinks what the school board did is illegal.
For Pochel, the next move towards replacing Columbus Day is fighting on a county or state level.
“The city of Chicago is just going to have to remain inequitable to the indigenous people of Chicago and continue this perpetuation of myths that negatively affect our psyche,” Pochel said.