In Berkeley, Columbus' day is done

January 11, 1992|By ASSOCATED PRESS

BERKELEY, CALIF — BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- Christopher Columbus was tossed overboard yesterday by city officials who declared Oct. 12 "Indigenous Peoples Day," stripping the explorer of his honored day in this politically correct city.

The city also declared 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus' landing in America, "The Year of Indigenous People."

"Berkeley wants to celebrate the important place that indigenous people hold in this country," Mayor Loni Hancock said yesterday. "Their societies and philosophies flourished long before Columbus arrived and they continue until today."

The city's declaration underscored the revisionist notion that Columbus wasn't the heroic man who discovered America, but was a European colonist whose arrival in the New World led to the deaths of millions of Indians.

"The Berkeley concept is probably really a good one. It goes a long way to eliminate the stereotype of, 'Here's a bunch of savages who needed to be discovered,' " said Terry Wilson, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

"I think it's a very positive way to illustrate the Native American aspect in the quincentennial that could be very easily overshadowed," said Wilson, director of the school's Native American Studies program.

The Sons of Italy's Commission on Social Justice criticized the move, saying the explorer should be celebrated as the first person to discover the Americas and record the findings.

"It's kind of tough to rewrite history 500 years after it happens," said Richard Armento, spokesman for the commission.

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