Columbus Day-Indigenous Peoples Day controversy erupts again in Southampton

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SOUTHAMPTON -

Tempers flared as the controversy over celebrating Columbus Day boiled over once again in the Southampton School District, with a board meeting ending in yet another change to the holiday's name.

The debate pitted members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation against pro-Columbus advocates seeking to reverse a district decision to rename the holiday on its calendar.

"To sit there and celebrate a man...that has raped, murdered and stole is a slap in the face," says Nichol Dennis-Banks, a Shinnecock Tribe member.

As News 12 reported three years ago, the calendar controversy started when some Native American students in the district pushed to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. They said the goal was to celebrate everyone involved in America's founding.

MORE: Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples Day? LIers weigh in | Southampton schools mull renaming Columbus Day 

Some Italian-Americans in the district wanted to keep Columbus Day as a day to honor their achievements.

"All to malign this man as a brutal sadistic invader, it's totally, abjectly untrue," says Lou Gallo, of Sons of Italy.

Last year, the board voted in favor of renaming the holiday. But Tuesday night pro-Columbus advocates, including Gallo, pleaded with the board to put Columbus Day back on the calendar.

"If you want to do tolerance and diversity, you do it by addition, not by subtraction," says Gallo.

In the end, the board voted 4-3 to change the name yet again to "Indigenous Peoples Day/Italian Heritage Day."

Some residents say the controversy has gotten out of hand, while others think the change is a good compromise.

"I think it's cool that they're incorporating a lot more people into it, so I feel like that's good for everyone," says Southampton High School sophomore Isabelle Kadash.

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