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St. Louis Should Celebrate Indigenous People, Not Columbus

October 9, 2017 Featured No Comments
Bocce is one of many long-standing traditions on The Hill. January 2011 photo

One hundred fifty years ago the the fist Columbus Day parade was held in St.Louis — 70 years before becoming a federal holiday.

The Italian American Heritage Corporation is one of the oldest Italian American organization in the United States. It was organized on November 11, 1866 and was incorporated on December 6, 1866 it is composed of many St. Louis Italian-American Organizations, who joined together a number of years ago to ensure that there will always be a Columbus Day Parade.

The first parade was organized by the Fratellanza Society in 1867 through the effort of an Italian settlement in downtown St Louis. The parade route started downtown and terminated at the statue of Chistopher Columbus ( donated by Henry Shaw ) in Tower Park. For many years it has been held on ” The Hill” .

The parade is always the highlight of the Columbus Day celebration by many Italian Organizations to promote the philosophy and culture of their heritage by participating in a Festa after the parade. The Festa is traditionally held in Berra Park. (Facebook page

The Civil War ended two years prior to this first parade. It was now illegal to own other humans as slaves, so why not celebrate another dark path of our history?

Columbus Day has been criticized for celebrating the discovery of a place that was already inhabited and because Columbus himself is considered responsible for the rape and murder of those indigenous people.

“One of the biggest misconceptions about Columbus is that he was righteous,” Leo Killsback, a citizen of the Northern Cheyenne Nation and assistant professor of American Indian Studies at Arizona State University, told CNN. Killsback also noted that Columbus never actually landed in what in the now the United States.

Berkeley Loni Hancock, who was the Mayor of Berkeley in 1992, told TIME Magazine in 2014 that they opted for the alternative to Columbus Day because the existing celebrations were “Eurocentric and [have] ignored the brutal realities of the colonization of indigenous peoples.” (Time) 

I love the Italian neighborhood known as The Hill, but celebrating Columbus needs to stop. Have a festival with lots of food to celebrate Italian-American history in St. Louis.Even keep a parade. Just change the name.

Local governments, however, need to pass legislation to change the name of the holiday. This is important since we ran off Native-Americans and leveled their mounds.

— Steve Patterson


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