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Mar 6, 2019 9:44 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Southampton School Board Agrees To Add 'Italian Heritage Day' To 'Indigenous Peoples’ Day' On Calendar

Nichol Dennis Banks, Shinnecock member and former tribal trustee, protesting Columbus Day on the Southampton School District's calendar at Tuesday's meeting. ANISAH ABDULLAH
Mar 6, 2019 10:56 AM

Late Tuesday evening, after lengthy discussions and impassioned public comments, the Southampton Board of Education voted in favor of renaming the holiday traditionally observed as Columbus Day on next year’s school calendar to Indigenous Peoples’ Day/Italian Heritage Day.

Board members struggled to make a decision, but ultimately voted, 4-3, to approve the name change. Board members Anastasia Gavalas, Roberta Hunter, Donald King and SunHe Sherwood-Dudley voted in favor of the measure, while Jacqueline Robinson, Michael Medio and James McKenna were opposed.

If the motion had been rejected, the holiday would have been marked simply as “Schools Closed” on the official school calendar.

Last year, the board voted in favor of renaming the holiday, observed on the second Monday of October, as Indigenous Peoples’ Day for this year’s school calendar. The decision came after years of consideration and was met with both support and resistance from the community. In an effort to find common ground for the upcoming calendar, Superintendent of Schools Nicholas Dyno proposed including “Italian Heritage Day” to the name for a dual title.

The date on the calendar was marked as “No School” for the 2017-18 school year and “Schools Closed” the year before that for cultural sensitivity purposes. It was Columbus Day for generations before that.

Two dozen people came to the podium to share their opinions on whether the district should change the name back to Columbus Day or continue to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America and the Knights of Columbus, as well as district residents and parents of Southampton students, were among those who spoke during the public comments section. Those who advocated for Columbus Day traveled from as far west as Nassau County to attend the meeting.

Shortly before voting, several board members expressed how difficult it was to choose a side.

Ms. Hunter, a Shinnecock Nation member, responded to them: “Certainly it’s a difficult decision … when you’re not feeling like there’s 150 percent of people standing with your particular point of view, that there really is strength to the passion of the points of view that are being expressed. But I would continue to encourage us to be fearless in our representation of the very unique community that we’re all in.”

Mr. McKenna and Mr. Medio said right before the vote that they did not believe a school board should have the authority to rename a federally recognized holiday.

The public seating area is split into two sections with a central walkway, and audience members divided themselves accordingly—those in favor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day primarily occupied the right half, and those in favor of Columbus Day, several sporting Knights of Columbus jackets, filled the left half.

“It is time to right some of the wrongs, it is time to heal some of the wounds and it is time to do the right thing by not just our children, but all children,” Nichol Dennis Banks, a Shinnecock member and former Tribal Trustee, said to the board. “We have to tell a proper telling of history, not his story.”

Those who advocated for Columbus Day made it clear that they support an Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but not as a replacement of the federal holiday.

Louis Gallo of Miller Place, the immediate past chairman of the anti-defamation wing of the Order Sons and Daughter of Italy in America, opposed the name change last year during board meetings and continued to reject the current proposal at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I mean, it’s a step in the right direction, but we want Columbus Day for the reasons that we know, and that is his legacy is momentous. It changed the entire world,” Mr. Gallo said in an earlier interview. He and his organization maintain that Christopher Columbus, an Italian explorer, was unfairly blamed for all atrocities associated with the European colonization of America.

As part of the anti-defamation wing, members campaign within communities on social and cultural issues of importance to Italian Americans—keeping Columbus Day on the calendar is one of them. Mr. Gallo said the Order is considering seeking legal action against the school district for the name change.

The conversation within the school district to remove Columbus Day from the calendar began several years ago, when members of the student body, including a few from the Shinnecock Nation, protested the district’s observing of Columbus Day because of Christopher Columbus’s mistreatment of Native Americans when he arrived to the New World.

In 2016, the students advocated changing the name to Indigenous Peoples’ Day to the School Board, to which members responded. The board began to research how other areas across the country with large Native American populations observed the holiday. They eventually voted, 4-2, to change the name last February, joining over 50 municipalities across the nation that made the switch.

Board members planned to make a decision on the calendar at their previous meeting on February 12, but they decided to hold it over because the snowfall that day pushed up the meeting time on short notice from 7 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Mr. McKenna, who also opposed the name change last year, said at the last meeting that he was not in favor of the calendar as it was presented, and did not feel comfortable approving it at that time. He thought that the short notice of the new meeting time may have prevented residents who wanted to participate in the calendar discussion to attend.

Members decided to approve the calendar dates, for the purpose of locking in holiday dates by the March 1 deadline, but leave the holidays temporarily nameless so the board could have a later discussion on what they will be called.

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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By themarlinspike (542), southampton on Mar 6, 19 1:35 PM
Let's write our future, not rewrite the past which should be remembered so we can see how far we've come and how terrific we can make our future.
By Taz (725), East Quogue on Mar 6, 19 1:53 PM
GOD BLESS CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS
Mar 8, 19 7:52 AM appended by themarlinspike
AND GOD BLESS ALL NATIVE AND ITALIAN AMERICANS !!!
By themarlinspike (542), southampton on Mar 8, 19 7:52 AM
This is a great solution, just like when they decided to re-name a day of observance for the holocaust to 'German heritage day'
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Mar 6, 19 10:21 PM
I’m still waiting for the day they make it a hate crime for holding up my middle finger.
By pigroast (100), East Quogue on Mar 7, 19 12:00 AM
1 member liked this comment
Just because the Southampton BOE says so, doesn't make it so. The nerve!
By Babyboo (293), Hampton Bays on Mar 7, 19 6:51 AM
1 member liked this comment
SOUTHAMPTON SCHOOL DISTRICT "ANCHORING THE COMMUNITY"
1- Anchoring or focalism is a cognitive bias where an individual relies too heavily on an initial piece of information offered when making decisions. Anchoring occurs when, during decision making, an individual relies on an initial piece of information to make subsequent judgments.
2-Anchoring-mooring to the sea bottom with an anchor.
Just watched the meeting. How sad. Everyone lost. Every ethnicity/religion was offended in some ...more
By deepchanel (89), Hampton Bays on Mar 7, 19 8:53 AM
1 member liked this comment
Whether you agree with the politics of commentator Michael Knowles or not, his presentation at the University of Notre Dame was well-researched and brilliant. On the Columbus issue, there's a liberal tyranny which is devoid of historical fact and context. https://youtu.be/8Y-Ag-ocB-Q
By Amagansetter (1), Amagansett on Mar 7, 19 11:41 AM
1 member liked this comment
I listened to the video. Was a very good attack piece on everything liberal, from the women’s march to native Americans. Propaganda at its finest, mind numbing self righteous nonsense.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Mar 7, 19 12:19 PM
2 members liked this comment
Blank calendars for everyone, soon someone will even feel the numbers are offensive.
By HamptonDad (236), Hampton Bays on Mar 7, 19 4:44 PM
2 members liked this comment
Hey I am not happy about changing Columbia’s day to indigenous day. This day is for Italian Americans period. This is our day . You are not changing it. All Italian restaurants and businesses should leave . You don’t deserve to have any of our good food etc. how nasty of u. This day is for Italian Americans. No other. Get yr own day if u don’t like it. Are u jealous?
By Ligirl559 (1), Coram on Mar 7, 19 10:44 PM
LOL, hahahaha.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Mar 8, 19 12:28 AM
Why are there up island people at the meeting? Glen Cove and Miller Place and now this person from Coram cares about a calendar of a school thirty miles away, LOL!
By 2329702 (67), East Quogue on Mar 8, 19 8:35 AM
At least they care. Have you heard of the snowball effect? When something gets started in one area, then it spreads out and gets out of control? That's what is happening with the re-naming of streets, parks, schools, holidays and the removal of statues, plaques, etc. People need to speak up at the right place and time before a ruling is made. We need more people to take action and call this ridiculousness out. If I'm not correct, this idea got started when a group of school kids thought the holiday ...more
By pigroast (100), East Quogue on Mar 8, 19 11:55 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Ligirl559 (1), Coram on Mar 7, 19 10:49 PM
This is the passion of the Christ! Your insight is appreciated.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Mar 8, 19 12:29 AM
Keep school open on the second Monday of October. Replay the Board video as a teaching/learning experience for the students and educate them on why our country has come to this. Use the federal holiday on Election Day and teach the importance voting, whether it be for your country-county- or school board.
By deepchanel (89), Hampton Bays on Mar 9, 19 6:52 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Win sky (58), Southampton on Mar 10, 19 12:48 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Mar 10, 19 1:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Mar 10, 19 2:18 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 10, 19 2:51 PM