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Village of Lewiston declares second October Monday 'Indigenous Peoples Day'

by jmaloni
Mon, Oct 5th 2015 08:50 pm
The Village of Lewiston
The Village of Lewiston

Trustees voice support of renaming Robert Moses Parkway

By Joshua Maloni

Managing Editor

The Village of Lewiston Board of Trustees unanimously approved a motion Monday to add an additional designation to Columbus Day. Starting this year, the second October Monday will be known as "Indigenous Peoples Day" to honor the local Native American community.

Deputy Mayor Bruce Sutherland said he became aware of similar initiatives in other Western New York communities.

Speaking of the Columbus Day holiday, he said, "Only 23 states treat it as such, and New York is one of them. To our Native American friends, Columbus Day is not necessarily a day to celebrate. Columbus came over and did a lot to the native people - enslaved them and moved them around. And they were already here. ... But we are very appreciative of what our Tuscarora friends have done for us over the years - especially over 200 years ago when they came down to save many Lewiston lives at the burning of Lewiston.

"I think we should designate (in) Lewiston the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day so we can enrich our friendship with all native peoples, especially the Tuscaroras. Maybe we can ... fuel the movement to make it a national goal?"

Mayor Terry Collesano said the two observances could coexist.

"Declaring the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day in the Village of Lewiston by no means takes away the annual celebration of Columbus Day," he said.

Collesano added, "Peter LoJacono, president of the WNY Federation of Italian-American Societies, whose group promotes and celebrates Columbus Day, said that they embrace all cultures and welcome all others recognizing their own cultures. He therefore further said, 'We encourage all people to celebrate their heritage as they see fit.'

"Being a person of Italian-American descent, I believe that I can both celebrate the contributions of Christopher Columbus and also honor our Native Americans for their contributions on the same day. It would be also an honor to especially remember the heroic presence of the Tuscaroras on that fateful evening of Dec. 19, 1813."

The board's proclamation reads, in part, "The Village of Lewiston recognizes indigenous people have lived upon this land since immemorial and values the progress our society has accomplished through the contributions of the indigenous culture. ... Natives and non-natives have shared this community for hundreds of years and the indigenous people have provided us friendship, guidance and protection. ... The idea of Indigenous Peoples Day was first proposed in 1977 by a delegation of native nations to the United Nations-sponsored International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas. ... The Village Board of Lewiston ... wishes to recognize natives with a day to celebrate and honor indigenous people to better reflect the experiences of indigenous people and to hold in esteem their roots, history and contributions."

Robert Moses who?

Trustees lent support to a movement seeking to rename the Robert Moses Parkway the Niagara Scenic Parkway. They unanimously approved a motion that read, in part, "The name of the parkway is not helpful or descriptive in directing tourists or visitors to their destinations, and, in fact, can actually confuse the motoring public since the name 'Robert Moses' does not explain or denote the parkway's features or purpose. ... Because the parkway is undergoing reconfiguration and redesign at the present time, this presents a golden opportunity to rename the parkway and make it more tourist- and visitor-friendly. ... Be it further resolved that copies of this resolution be directed to Gov. Cuomo, Sen. Robert Ortt and Assemblyman John Ceretto in an effort to encourage our state leaders to take the necessary actions to implement this name change as soon as possible."

This idea originally came from Lewiston resident Mamie Simonson. At a meeting of the RMP stakeholders in Niagara Falls last month, she shared her vision to better educate those traveling from the River Region to Niagara Falls.

"The parkway has been called Robert Moses Parkway for over 50 years. How that ever started, I don't know," she said. "A few months ago, my daughter was visiting from out of town. She was driving on the parkway and she asked, 'Why is that name, Robert Moses, still on the signs for the parkway? It means nothing to all the tourists and visitors who are looking for Niagara Falls, or the falls itself. It just confuses people and no one knows where it goes.'

"She raised an excellent point, and that's why I'm on a mission to change the name ... to the Niagara Parkway or Niagara Scenic Parkway. It would be very simple, direct, clear."

Simonson said Ceretto and Ortt support her concept. She added, "There are four Robert Moses Parkway signs. ... None of them tell you you're on your way to the falls. Not one of them. It just says 'Robert Moses Parkway.' So, people coming on (Route) 104, for instance, that want to get to Niagara Falls, they see 'Robert Moses Parkway'; it doesn't mean a thing. They end up in the Village of Lewiston wondering, 'How do we get to the falls?' "

At the Village Board meeting, Sutherland and Trustee Vic Eydt both said the name change is a good idea and this an appropriate time to take action.

"Most people don't even know who Robert Moses was," Eydt said. "They don't know the history. He's not even a local person. He's from New York City - Long Island."

New Fairchild Plan

The village's Planning Board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday. Members expect to receive and discuss a new plan for the vacant Fairchild Manor property bordering Fairchild Place and Onondaga streets. 

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