Waterville’s Republican mayor, Nick Isgro, is defying a movement to recognize the Americas’ original inhabitants with a proclamation declaring Oct. 14 as Columbus Day.
Isgro will read his proclamation at the 7 p.m. Tuesday City Council meeting, according to the meeting’s agenda.
The proclamation, quoting President Benjamin Harrison, lauds Christopher Columbus as a “pioneer of progress and enlightenment,” whose arrival in the Americas in 1492 prompted the migration of millions of Europeans, who “brought their art, music, science, medicine, philosophy and religious principles to America.”
“The accomplishments of Columbus through his courage and willingness to take unknown risks in exchange for discovery, knowledge, and greatness has trickled down through each generation of Americans, from the early pioneer settlers to the exploration of the vast universe beyond our atmosphere,” the proclamation reads.
It further states that Italian-Americans as an ethnic group have made contributions to American business, civic life and culture of “unquestionable value.”
Maine joined a growing number of states — including New Mexico and Vermont — in April when Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, signed into law a bill that dropped the state’s recognition of the federal holiday in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day.
That followed a movement among Maine communities, starting in Belfast in 2015, to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day as activists worked to shift perception of Columbus, whose arrival in the Americas ushered in centuries of subjugation, enslavement and genocide against the continent’s original inhabitants.
Kirk Francis, the Penobscot Nation’s tribal chief, told the Waterville Morning Sentinel that he found the proclamation “discouraging,” while the Penobscot Nation’s tribal ambassador, Maulian Dana, said it fit within Isgro’s “history of not liking inclusivity.”
Meanwhile, Waterville Council Chairman Sydney Mayhew likened the movement to replace Columbus Day to that calling for removing monuments to the Confederacy, according to the Sentinel. Councilor Erik Thomas told the newspaper that the city has bigger concerns to address than Isgro’s proclamation.
Columbus’ first trans-Atlantic voyage in 1492 was sponsored by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. Columbus would make three additional ocean crossings to the Americas, in 1493, 1498 and 1502. Columbus served for a time as governor of Hispaniola, but that came to an end in 1500 when he was led back to Spain in chains after complaints from colonists about mismanagement and brutality prompted the visit of a royal commissioner. He was freed on order of Ferdinand and Isabella.