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Groups mark Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples Day separately as fate of monument in limbo

Removal or relocation of the Columbus monument is on hold, but progress continues on Heritage Park in downtown Syracuse
Chris Bolt
Removal or relocation of the Columbus monument is on hold, but planning continues on Heritage Park in downtown Syracuse

Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples' Day will come and go Monday in Syracuse with the future of the Christopher Columbus monument still in limbo. 

A judge ruled earlier this year that the statue has to stay, a decision favoring the Columbus Monument Corporation. The City of Syracuse has said it will appeal.

Mayor Ben Walsh, the indigenous community, and others have been trying to find a way to move the monument and create a heritage park recognizing people of all backgrounds. President of the Monument Corporation, Mark Nicotra said to Syracuse Italians in the 1930s, Columbus represented what they endured as they immigrated to and settled in America. He said he acknowledges the explorer represents something very different to others, but it shouldn’t mean the statue should be removed.

"Leave the statue alone, but let's incorporate the other parts of history that go with it. Let's tell the full story. Let's not take down one part of history to build up another. Let's do it all. We've offered to raise money for a heritage park, and that's gone by the wayside. They want the statue down and that's it," Nicotra said.

There’s been growing momentum in recent years to remove statues of historical figures that some see as divisive or offensive. Sue Eiholzer with Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation, or NOON, said their effort goes back decades.

"I have heard people talking about removing it for over 20 years. I thought this was pie in the sky—it's never going to happen. Now, it's gotten this close. I'm just amazed that this much has happened. I don't know what to say about it. I have no idea where it will go. I think it's ridiculous that they're fighting it; time to move on," Eiholzer said.

Meanwhile, the groups are preparing to hold separate events on Monday. The Columbus Day wreath laying will be held at 11 a.m. at the monument, complete with singers and dancers. That’s followed by a luncheon at the Oncenter.

The Indigenous Peoples' Day celebration begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Everson Museum Plaza, and will include Haudenosaunee singers and dancers, speakers, and film screenings. Eiholzer with NOON said the group is foregoing its demonstration at the monument this year.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at
Mark Budd is a graduate student studying broadcast and digital journalism at Syracuse Univeristy's Newhouse School of Public Communications, expected to graduate in May 2023. As a multimedia reporter, Mark helps prodcue audio and digital content for WAER. Mark is a native of Long Island, New York and recived his undergradute degree at Drexel Univeristy.