WINCHESTER — Christopher Columbus nearly sank Winchester's plans to make Indigenous Peoples' Day an official city holiday.

It happened Tuesday night during City Council's business meeting. The panel was scheduled to decide whether Juneteenth should become Winchester's 14th local government holiday, meaning that city offices would be closed and most city employees would get the day off with pay on June 19 of each year, but Councilor Evan Clark threw a last-minute wrench into the works.

Clark said council should also take the opportunity to remove Columbus Day from the city's calendar and replace it with Indigenous Peoples' Day.

Columbus Day is a city, state and federal holiday held on the second Monday of each October to mark Christopher Columbus' discovery of America in 1492. In recent years, however, some have questioned whether Columbus should be celebrated. Historical evidence shows he was not the first European to land in America, and he enslaved, abused and brought diseases to the native inhabitants of every territory he explored. Research also indicates that, for centuries, Native Americans were improperly referred to as Indians because Columbus gave them that designation after believing he had landed in South Asia rather than North America.

"What we were taught in elementary school is patently not true," said Clark, a former history teacher. "Christopher Columbus was a genocidal maniac who governed over Hispaniola [Haiti] and oversaw the massacre and enslavement of thousands of people. He is a terrible person and in no way should he be honored."

Nationwide, Columbus Day has been gradually replaced with an observance of Indigenous Peoples' Day, an annual event that celebrates Native Americans and their histories and culture. President Joe Biden signed a proclamation last week officially making Indigenous Peoples' Day a federal holiday, but he did not change Columbus Day's status as a federal holiday. Both holidays will be observed on the second Monday of each October.

Winchester tends to observe all state and federal holidays but is not obligated to do so. In order for a holiday to be added to or removed from the city's calendar, City Council must approve it.

On Tuesday, as council prepared to decide whether to add Juneteenth to the calendar, Clark suggested killing two birds with one stone by eliminating Columbus Day with the same vote.

"I would strongly encourage my fellow councilors to help me be leaders and not followers and remove Columbus Day from our city holidays," Clark said. "Hopefully other jurisdictions will follow that same lead."

Clark made a formal motion to approve Juneteenth but attached a rider stating Columbus Day would no longer be observed by the local government.

The reaction was not what he expected.

Councilor Corey Sullivan said Winchester stopped observing Columbus Day several years ago and now celebrates Indigenous Peoples' Day. The only place Columbus Day is even mentioned as a city holiday is within Winchester's Comprehensive Employee Management System, which serves as an employee handbook for all city workers.

Mayor David Smith seemed especially disturbed by Clark's request.

"We are moving forward with celebrating Juneteenth and, in the same breath, you bring up Columbus Day," Smith said.

Juneteenth, a state and federal holiday celebrated each year on June 19, is a commemoration of the emancipation of slaves in America. Smith said it should be adopted as a city holiday under its own merits and should not be blended into a motion mentioning a separate holiday that honors a man who enslaved people.

"I take issue with that personally," Smith said to Clark. "I don't want this [Juneteenth] to be diminished by Columbus Day. ... I would have asked that the recommendation for Columbus Day be sent to staff and dealt with there, or maybe be brought up with another item."

Councilors Les Veach and Judy McKiernan voted against Clark's motion — not because they opposed Juneteenth, but because of the way Columbus Day became tied into the decision. The remaining seven councilors supported the measure, which means Juneteenth has been added as a city holiday each June 19 and Indigenous Peoples' Day will be observed on the second Monday of each October rather than Columbus Day.

The boards of supervisors in Frederick and Clarke counties voted earlier this year to automatically observe all state and federal holidays, making Juneteenth an official holiday in those jurisdictions. The towns of Middletown, Stephens City and Berryville also follow the state holiday calendar, so those localities observe Juneteenth as well.

Attending Tuesday night’s City Council meeting in Rouss City Hall were Mayor and council President David Smith, Vice President Kim Herbstritt, Vice Mayor John Hill and members Evan Clark, Corey Sullivan, Phillip Milstead, Richard Bell, Judy McKiernan and Les Veach.

— Contact Brian Brehm at bbrehm@winchesterstar.com

(12) comments

Jasoneegan

When everything's darkness

And you feel so alone,

When the rain doesn't stop

And you can't make it home,

When it feels all is lost

And you just want to run,

It can't rain forever.

Just wait for the sun.

When family is pain,

When friends can't be found,

When you just want to scream

But you can't find the sound,

When it's all your fault,

And you feel like you're done,

Just wait for the sun.

The sunshine will come.

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It won't last forever.

The rain always stops and gives way to good weather.

The brightest and warmest of days still to come.

Please wait for the sun.

The sunshine will come.

People who need you,

People who still love you

Can warm up your soul like the sunshine above you.

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Old Western Man

So this "history teacher" (and ilk) is bent over the rather meaningless detail that Columbus wasn't technically first even though previous contact had little impact, that Columbus dabbled in slavery which existed everywhere on the globe and was already an indigenous practice in America, who also unwittingly enabled the exchange of diseases between the Old and New Worlds, who unknowingly misidentified the indigenous peoples as Indians, and is somehow solely responsible for violent acts against Indians (some of who were equally violent) by those assigned to govern the fledgling settlements as he continued to explore. But, this "woke" teacher is also a champion of the Juneteenth holiday which only marks the news of declared emancipation reaching Galveston TX, which may have freed slaves in Union occupied Confederate territory but didn't actually free any slaves that remained in the Union. Slaves that factually were not emancipated until December of 1865 from the last holdout states of NJ, DE, and KY, with the ratification of the final iteration of the 13th amendment. Got it.

Such results oriented wokeness is emblematic of much of what ails the nation. As as a cultural or local holiday, Juneteenth makes sense. Factually though, a December 6th federal holiday would be accurate. Maybe in lieu of Christmas with all of the baggage that comes with the history of Christianity? Sarcastically speaking of course, but who will be surprised when that day arrives from such wardens of counterfeit virtue?

Wilt9458

Well said! And yes, how many were killed in the name of Christianity? In both the teachings of the bible and throughout history - let’s talk about the Templar Knights, the Crusades, and even this year!

Old Western Man

[rolleyes] and here we are.

Well Wilt, one can't really discuss the Templars and Crusades without first discussing Islam's 7th century rise out of Arabia and subsequent century of conquest of Christian territories culminating at the Caliphate’s defeat at the Battle of Tours in 732. Another 350+ years later, and Christianity makes the attempt to retake the Holy Land and liberate Jerusalem from nearly 500 years of Islamic occupation.

Spoiler alert Wilt, none are innocent.

Deus_Vult

Don't forget Lepanto or Vienna, especially Lepanto where Christians were outmatched in number and armament yet prevailed! Deus vult!

Doc Samson

"discussing Islam's 7th century rise out of Arabia and subsequent century of conquest of Christian territories"

Um, sorry but that topic is VERBOTEN! It's only allowed as part of the narrative if it disparages white Christians. Of course, you are right, i.e. none are innocent. And that's what makes the Pr0g-Left's arguments so, so superficial and indicative of their lack of reasoning skillz...

Bose-Einstein

Old Crotchety Man, who can forget those "some of who were equally violent" (sounds like Trump talking about Mexicans) women, children and elderly at the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864:

When hundreds of blue-clad cavalrymen suddenly appeared at dawn on November 29, a Cheyenne chief raised the Stars and Stripes above his lodge. Others in the village waved white flags. The troops replied by opening fire with carbines and cannon, killing at least 150 Indians, most of them women, children and the elderly. Before departing, the troops burned the village and mutilated the dead, carrying off body parts as trophies.

Old Western Man

[lol] another one desperate to appear relevant. perpetually ranting about Trump.[yawn]

Tired of disparaging Afghani soldiers Bigot-E?

I made the point that the Spaniards left in charge to run the settlements had to violently deal with indigenous tribes such as the cannibalistic indigenous Caribs, for which the ignorant of today blame Columbus despite eyewitness accounts to the contrary (Friar De las Casas). While you make a truly pathetic attempt to tie my 1492 period statement to the entirely unrelated Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 and that again to an out of context statement from Trump in 2017 concerning narco-terrorists exploiting the immigration/border disaster. (smh) I hope you weren't ever a public school teacher.

As to the criminal acts of the Sand Creek Massacre, you're yapping up the wrong tree. That was the Union Army Regulars under Lincoln committing similar atrocities to Native Americans as they were to Southerners in Sheridan's Shenandoah Valley Burning and Sherman's March to the Sea. These two "war heroes" would continue their genocidal purge of American Plains Indians under "war hero" President Grant with the sadly ironic assistance of the famed/infamous Buffalo Soldiers. As has already been expressed many times, there are no innocent parties in history.

Far and away though, the single greatest mass murderer in human history is centralized government. A foundational pillar of progressive/Democrat politics.

nemozilch

Well said, but good luck, the facts seem to never do much but confuse some people.

libertyspirit

Welcome to Wokechester.

StellaBob

Explain how adding this city holiday is woke?

Also, explain how you are not a racist pig.

john brown

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

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