Students at Yale University gathered on Monday with drums beating. The Association of Native Americans at Yale hosted a rally for Indigenous Peoples' Day, one of the many communities celebrating the day across Connecticut.
"Today is a celebration of our continued survival," said Lynn Malerba, Chief Many Hearts of the Mohegan Tribe. The Mohegan Tribe is one of two federally recognized tribes in Connecticut.
For years now, some have decided to spend the second Monday in October celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day instead of the federal holiday, Columbus Day.
Last week, President Joe Biden became the first president to mark Indigenous Peoples' Day with a proclamation.
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“For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures,” Biden wrote in the Indigenous Peoples’ Day proclamation. “Today, we recognize Indigenous peoples’ resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact that they have made on every aspect of American society.”
Biden also wrote a proclamation for Columbus Day, writing, "let this day be one of reflection — on America’s spirit of exploration, on the courage and contributions of Italian Americans throughout the generations, on the dignity and resilience of Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities, and on the work that remains ahead of us to fulfill the promise of our Nation for all."
Malerba said she believes it is important to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day and to recognize how tribes contributed to the formulation of the United States.
"We are not just a group of related individuals. We have operated as a government since long before the Europeans came to the shore," said Malerba. "It's important that people recognize and celebrate all of the goodness that comes from our lands."
While Malerba said she believes it is important to celebrate Italian Americans and their contributions as well, she just doesn't believe that Columbus is the person who everyone should be recognizing.
"He perpetrated so many crimes on the indigenous peoples that he encountered and was responsible for the decimation of many, many indigenous people," said Malerba.
Last year, communities across Connecticut removed statues of Columbus following protests. New London, Hartford and New Haven are among the cities that removed statues.
Hartford City Council voted to officially change Columbus Day in the city to Indigenous Peoples' Day.
In New London, city leaders decided to change Columbus Day to Italian Heritage Day. The month of October is dedicated to Italian heritage and the month of November is focused on indigenous peoples.
"It is much better to honor their legacy and strip Columbus from New London, but not necessarily our Italian roots as well as our Italian heritage," said city councilor Curtis Goodwin.
In Derby this morning the Sons and Daughters of Italy, Valley Regional Lodge, gathered for their annual Columbus Day event. They used the day to celebrate their heritage.
"It's important that we recognize where we have been as a culture this way we can look forward to where we are going," said Dan Onofrio. "It is nice this one time of year to come together and celebrate not just our heritage, but our culture, the language and all of the things that make being Italian great."
They also took a moment to acknowledge indigenous peoples and their suffering.