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Baltimore City Council bill would rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples' Day

Baltimore City Councilman John T. Bullock will introduce a bill Monday to officially change the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day in the city.

The bill, co-sponsored by City Council President Brandon Scott, comes at a time when the Italian explorer’s legacy is under increased scrutiny due to the treatment of Native Americans upon his arrival. This summer, a group of protesters tore down a Columbus statue near the Inner Harbor, and Councilman Ryan Dorsey has introduced a bill to rename another Columbus monument in the city.

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Scott, the Democratic nominee for mayor, unsuccessfully attempted to have the holiday’s name changed back in 2016, but it didn’t pass. However, as the political climate around race issues has changed, Scott is confident he’ll have the backing needed this time.

“Back in 2016, the bill didn’t receive the support it needed, but the council president believes that under the new City Council the bill will pass,” said Stefanie Mavronis, Scott’s spokeswoman.

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Baltimore would not be the first local jurisdiction to change the name of the federal holiday — Howard County announced this month that it would celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day. In Maryland, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have made similar moves, as have cities nationwide like Dallas and Washington, D.C.

Bullock, who represents Baltimore’s District 9, said the bill is about recognizing that Columbus' arrival in the Americas marked the beginning of colonization and enslavement.

“By looking at other jurisdictions, I think what you’re seeing is the sensitivity toward the time that we are in and the need to make progress toward issues that have been stalled for some time — including recognizing Indigenous Peoples' Day and having a correct view of history,” Bullock, a Democrat, said.

Supporters of Columbus Day, however, have defended the 15th century explorer’s legacy as a celebration of exploration and the merging of Italian and American cultures.

Italian American Organizations United, the group that donated the Columbus statue that was torn down July 4, could not be reached for comment specifically on the city’s new bill.

But group officer Bill Martin said earlier this month that while he understands people’s views on Columbus have shifted, he was a figure that Italian immigrants could look up to when they moved to America to start a new life. The group recovered the pieces of the monument that was thrown by protesters into the Inner Harbor, and plans to restore the statue.

Bullock said that if the full council doesn’t pass the bill in time for this year’s holiday, Oct. 12, he hopes it will be done in time to recognize the new holiday the following year.

“The aim is to get this done before the upcoming holiday. But as far as the timing, we hope to get this done soon,” he said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Talia Richman contributed to this article.

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