We are writing on behalf of the members of the Italian-American Civic League, the oldest and largest organization of Italian-American men and women in Utah since 1934. I represent several hundred members and their families.

In this respect, we are writing this letter as strong opposition to SB170, an ill-conceived attempt to rename Columbus Day to “Indigenous People’s Day,” which is not only an uncalled-for affront to our culture, but also degrading and demeaning to all Italian-Americans, not only in the state of Utah, but to the over 26 million spread across our great land who comprise the fifth largest ethnic group in America.

When the intrepid Renaissance explorer Christopher Columbus ventured forth to cross the Atlantic over 500 years ago, little did he realize that his voyage would unite two vastly different worlds, each with unique ethnic groups and customs that blended to create a new history of cultural diversification. Ironically, it was Italian Jesuits like Father Eusebio Chino, Father Gregory Mengarini, Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, Father Joseph Giorda, Father Joseph Cataldo, Sister Blandina Segale and others who worked with the indigenous tribes, recording their language for posterity, teaching them to read and write, improving their health through agriculture, and so much more.

A large amount of Italian immigrants migrated to America and through their hard work, determination and talent have left an indelible mark on Utah as well as our great country, itself named after an Italian explorer (Amerigo Vespucci). Our own families arrived in Utah, many in the early 1900s, crossing the same ocean Columbus crossed. They struggled tirelessly through discrimination and without government assistance, learned the language, served their adopted country in the armed forces and became proud, loyal citizens. To reject Columbus is to reject a holiday we hold so dear to Italian culture. We are justly proud of our Italian heritage and we know our Native American brothers and sisters are equally proud of theirs. We are sure that we all agree that we must not and cannot favor one at the cost of the other.

There is no reason why both cultures cannot be honored, and why we cannot rightfully and proudly continue to celebrate an “Indigenous People’s Day” in honor of Native Americans on the Monday preceding Thanksgiving as well as the second Monday of October in honor of Italians per Utah Code Ann. 63G-1-401.

Columbus Day is one of America’s oldest patriotic holidays, first celebrated in 1792 to honor the 300th anniversary of the explorer’s first voyage to the New World. One hundred years later, in 1892, the Pledge of Allegiance was written to commemorate the 400-year anniversary of Columbus' voyage. That same year, President Benjamin Harrison declared Columbus Day a legal holiday in our nation, and it has been observed for over 120 years since.

We urge the Legislature to seriously reconsider this bill. Please — do not erase a chapter of our nation’s history and do not remove the only day that our nation recognizes the immeasurable contributions of Italians to our great country!

Dominic Fratto and Nick Fuoco currently serve as president and secretary of the Italian American Civic League, one of Utah's oldest civic organizations established in 1934. Excerpts of this letter were obtained from Maria Fassio Pignati of the Order of the Sons of Italy.