A statue of Christopher Columbus is seen in front of Union Station in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 12 (UPI) -- Amid a growing movement to designate the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples' Day, two Republican lawmakers introduced legislation to support continuing to recognize it as Columbus Day.
Reps. Andrew Garbarino of New York and Mark Amodei of Nevada introduced the bill Monday to support the observance and honor "contributions of the Italian American community in our society, thanks to the influence of Christopher Columbus."
"Columbus Day recognizes much more than just one man. It recognizes a day that changed the course of history -- thanks to the ingenuity and commitment of an Italian explorer -- and the generations of Italian American ingenuity that followed," Barbarino, an Italian American, said in a statement.
"For this reason, Columbus Day is a point of great pride for our community and I am committed to making sure it is preserved for future generations."
The bill was introduced days after President Joe Biden became the first president to issue a proclamation for Indigenous Peoples' Day. It acknowledged "significant sacrifices made by native peoples to this country."
"We must never forget the centuries-long campaign of violence, displacement, assimilation and terror wrought upon Native communities and tribal nations throughout our country," he said.
Biden also issued a second proclamation for Columbus Day, which has been observed as a federal holiday since 1971.
In that proclamation, Biden noted the contributions of Italian Americans and also mentioned the atrocities European explorers inflicted upon Native American communities.
"It is a measure of our greatness as a nation that we do not seek to bury these shameful episodes of our past," he said, "that we face them honestly."
There has been a growing movement to recognize Indigenous People's Day, and several states have already done so. According to the Pew Research Center, 18 states and Washington, D.C., have renamed Columbus Day to honor Indigenous peoples.
Proponents of replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day argue that Columbus didn't discover the Americas because people already lived here, and that his presence ushered in wide-scale pain and suffering of those communities.
According to the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, the Native American population declined by 95% in the 130 years after European contact.
On Friday, Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif., introduced a bipartisan resolution supporting the official designation of the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples' Day.
"This Indigenous Peoples' Day Resolution is an opportunity to honor the true nature of our founding and refocus a federal holiday on the incredible cultural contributions of Native peoples that have been absent from our celebrations until now," Torres said in a statement.
Protesters gather at the White House in honor of Indigenous Peoples' Day and to demand that President Joe Biden recognize their issues in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo