Rockaway Township Puts Columbus Day Back on Calendars

Columbus Day vs Indigenous Peoples Day

Columbus Day vs Indigenous Peoples’ Day

By James Adamo, Staff Writer

October 27, 2021 marked Rockaway Township’s school board meeting consisting of activists, perplexed students, and angry parents, urging the board to replace the newly inputted “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” with “Columbus Day”. The proposed change took many by surprise, as the Township voted back in December 2020 that Columbus Day should be called “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” instead. 

Lisa Mezik, board member of the Township said that the vote to rename Columbus Day back in December was unclear for all members voting. In a board meeting in September, Mezik stated her confusion by saying, ”The calendar that I saw did not have the change highlighted. So that was not something that I realized I was voting on,”. Many were angered by the change but the majority of them, Italian-Americans. 

The feelings of the Italian-Americans in Rockaway were not disregarded, they were heavily supported, mainly by treasurer of the Township, Matt Mustachio. Mustachio spoke of reinstating the title “Columbus Day” back on calendars, and had strong feelings towards it. Mustachio spoke about understanding why these people are mad, stating, “I don’t understand why you would take an Italian event, which is Columbus Day, off the calendars and the children who are Italian-American don’t know anything about their heritage.” 

During the Wednesday night meeting, the 7 board members voted on the question of whether or not to keep or change “Columbus Day” on calendars. In a 5-2 vote, the motion passed, returning “Columbus Day” back onto calendars in the Township. Italian-Americans throughout the area were elated, including Italian American One Voice Coalition Executive Board Member Andre DiMino. DiMino regarded Christopher Columbus as an “iconic symbol to Italian Americans”. He stated that he also believes that Italian Americans, “shouldn’t let the revisionists change our history because changing the history is a way to attack our country.”

After hearing about the change, many neighboring Townships were alerted that a change may be necessary for them as well. One Township in specific, Wayne, has named the day “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” however, after seeing a change to the holiday’s name in other areas, controversy arose within Wayne on whether or not it should revert back to being called “Columbus Day”. One resident who sees the controversy within his community is a Wayne Hills senior, Luke Hulbert who spoke about his opinion regarding the holiday saying, “If Italian Americans in Wayne become offended enough seeing a change elsewhere but not in their community, they can propose a change to be made.”