@NovaInsider’s Controversial Columbus Day Instagram Post

Sarah Wisniewski, Staff Writer

Columbus Day has been a controversial holiday in the United States for years. In 1992, Native Americans in Berkeley, CA decided to oppose the holiday and spend the day celebrating Native Americans instead. The Native American holiday took 30 years to be formally recognized in the “United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” in 2007. Today, the nation is divided in celebrating the man who “founded America” or the individuals who were here already. 

The University community saw this divide on Oct. 12, when a popular Instagram account made a post honoring Christopher Columbus. The @NovaInsider page, which mainly follows the athletics of the University, recognized the importance of Columbus Day to Italian Americans. 

“Italian Americans continue to leave their mark on America and Villanova’s future over a century since their ancestors first crossed the Atlantic in search of a better life,” the post said. “Recognizing both the feats and atrocities of Columbus’ voyages, we strive to move past an era of divisiveness and learn from the mistakes of the past to build a brighter future for all.” 

After posting, the account received heavy backlash from students and community members. Comments flooded the post and accused the account of being ignorant and failing to understand the harm in such a post.

“I was extremely disappointed by the post because it was an utter failure to recognize or understand the genocide committed against Native Americans, and on top of that was celebrating the man who was instrumental in that genocide,” junior Bobby Montesano said. “The post did not live up to the values of our school or our students.” 

The owner of @NovaInsider believed that the comments were becoming too cruel. In response, comments on the post were disabled after a few hours. 

“This is the first time I’ve ever had to do this after years of allowing vigorous debate and discussion in my comments,” the owner said in an Instagram story. 

Italian Americans have often celebrated the holiday more than other groups because of Columbus’ ethnicity. Italians were also considered targets of discrimination when they first arrived in the U.S. between 1880 and 1920, and Columbus Day became a way for Italian Americans to embrace their heritage and fight against the anti-Italianism of that time. 

However, Italian-American student Michael Stefano explained why he chooses not to celebrate the holiday and his disagreement with the @NovaInsider post. 

“Simply recognizing the atrocities of Columbus will never be grounds for moving past them,” he said. “As a person who is proud of their strong Italian heritage, invoking Columbus’ name to garner support for Italians seems disrespectful when there are plenty of other valid reasons to be proud to be Italian.”

For Native Americans, Columbus Day is a day when people celebrate the taking of Native lands, resulting in mass murder and pillaging of tribes. Therefore, Native Americans want others to rethink the history of the U.S. and see that Native people were the first inhabitants and unjustly lost their lives, land and livelihood.

The movement has gained support in recent years, as cities and states began making Indigenous Peoples’ Day an official holiday. South Dakota and Hawaii were the first two states to rename Columbus Day in 1990. Today, 18 states celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place or in addition to Columbus Day.