Supporters, protestors at odds over Columbus Day

Supporters, protestors at odds over Columbus Day

PUEBLO, Colo. - Many Italian Americans have been celebrating Columbus Day in Pueblo for the past 15 years. A statue of Columbus has been in Pueblo since 1905, overlooking Mesa Junction. But for many Native Americans, the statue and the day are a reminder of the oppression their ancestors endured.

"Columbus was not a hero," said Rudy "Reddog" Balles, executive director of the Southern Colorado chapter of the American Indian Movement.

For John Orbin, president of Sons of Italy Southern Colorado Lodge, Columbus Day is a day of pride. Orbin said it's a tribute to many of the Italians who came to Pueblo in the early 1900s to work at the steel mill.

"The whole idea of people coming to the New World and wanting a better life for themselves and their children. I think that's what Columbus represents," Orbin said.
Abolish Columbus Day protestors disagree. Balles said the day marginalizes Native Americans and robs them of their history. "How can you discover a group of people that were already here? You can't discover somebody that already discovered something."

Sons of Italy will be holding its celebration Monday at 10 a.m at the Columbus Monument near Abriendo and Union avenues. Protestors will also be at the event.

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