MANHATTAN N.Y. (PIX11) – The Indigenous Peoples’ Day Celebration at Randall’s Island Monday was meant to honor the culture of indigenous individuals and bring awareness to their fight in renaming Columbus Day.

Sen. Jessica Ramos from District 13 and Assemblywoman Marcela Mitaynes from District 51 have re-introduced legislation to officially change the national holiday to recognize the contributions and struggles of Native Americans.

“This is a reckoning and a long injustice that must be corrected,” Ramos said.

Supporters of the legislation clarify that these efforts are not intended to denounce Italian-American heritage but rather remove Christopher Columbus who they said is responsible for violent transatlantic colonization.

“We just want our Italian-American brothers and sisters to sort of look for a new hero because Columbus is certainly not one,” said Cliff Matias, director of Redhawk Native American Arts Council.

A petition calls for Gov. Kathy Hochul to change the holiday to solely reflect Indigenous people – not share the day with Columbus. More than 20,000 people have signed the online petition.

The celebration on Randall’s Island began in the morning with a ceremony bringing water from indigenous waterways and introducing them to the East River in prayer and song to blend tribes in unity and bring awareness to water protection.

Nicole Mari, an attendee with indigenous roots, said a commitment to nature is instilled in the culture.

“We all are the stewards of protecting mother earth and that includes the water and the land and it’s just a wonderful community gathering for us to get together, remember that around the sacred fire,” Mari said.

Indigenous vendors sold their traditional clothing and food like frybread – a flat dough bread deep-fried in oil.

The celebration usually happens a little further south on Randall’s Island, but what’s currently standing there behind the tipis are the tents expected to soon house asylum seekers. 

“I actually hoped that they’d have the immigrants there because we’d welcome them over here and say, ‘Come on over and sing and dance and celebrate with us,’” Matias said. “Almost all of them are relatives, right? They are relatives from South America and Mexico.”