9 Cities Abolish Columbus Day, Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day Instead

Nine cities across the United States have pressed for resolutions to abolish Columbus day in favor of recognizing October 12 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.  In the last two months Eight of those cities passed resolutions, and three adopted a resolution this week.

Most recently, The City Council of Albuquerque, New Mexico voted six to three on Thursday to recognize October 12 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in a new proclamation:

“Albuquerque recognizes the occupation of New Mexico’s homelands for the building of our City and knows indigenous nations have lived upon this land since time immemorial and values the process of our society accomplished through and by American Indian thought, culture, technology.”

The proclamation notes half a century of Indian resistance since Christopher Columbus’ arrival and marked the day “in an effort to reveal a more accurate historical record of the ‘discovery’ of the United States of America,” and to “recognize the contributions of Indigenous peoples despite enormous efforts against native nations.”

October 7, the City Council of Lawrence, Kansas supported efforts from Haskell University students and declared October 12 Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Tuesday, Oct. 6, Portland’s City Council also declared Indigenous Peoples’ Day, as did the City Council of Bexas County, Texas.

Something tribal leaders in Oregon have been seeking since 1954.

In August, lawmakers in St. Paul, Minnesota declared that October 12 was Indigenous Peoples’ Day, rather than Columbus Day.  A year prior, the city of Minneapolis did the same.

Alondra Cano, Minneapolis City Council woman who represents the 9th Ward, told RT that tribal councils and indigenous peoples have been dispelling the myths of Christopher Columbus’ legacy since the civil rights era.

“It is important to recognize there is a strategy on the ground. There is organizing that happened to help advance these policy agendas at the city council level,” said Cano.

In September, Anadarko, Oklahoma’s lawmakers signed their proclamation while surrounded by leaders from the Apache, Choctaw, Delaware, and Wichita tribes, among others.

Meanwhile, the Mayor of Alpena, Michigan, Matt Waligora said the city wants “to develop a strong and productive relationship with all indigenous peoples, including the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe, based on mutual respect and trust.”

Olympia, Washington, joining Bellingham, also supported a similar resolution in August,

In March, after being petitioned by their local high school lacrosse team, the Arkon Tigers, the Newstead Town Council in Erie County, New York also voted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

This weekend in New York, the Redhawk Native American Arts Council will unite over 500 indigenous artists, educators, singers and dancers from 75 nations on Randall’s Island for a Native American Festival and pow-wow. It is the first pow-wow ever to be held in Manhattan.

Organizer Cliff Matias said they will be celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day and recognize America’s earliest native tribes.

“Not so much an anti-Columbus Day but a celebration of indigenous peoples’ culture,” Matias told RT. “It is 500 years and we are still here to share our culture, so that’s pretty amazing. If you look at Columbus’ journey here, and the colonization, and the genocide, and the slavery he brought to this hemisphere, we probably weren’t supposed to make it 500 years later, but our traditions, our culture, they are here.”

The state of South Dakota, with its large Dakota Nation, established Native Americans’ Day on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ so-called founding of America in 1990.  Berkeley, California began their Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1992.

The city council of Seattle declared Indigenous Peoples’ Day in October of 2014.

Educator Matt Remle from the Lakota tribe led the effort in Seattle, which required five years of negotiating.  Remle said the biggest catalyst has been native communities using the internet to communicate.

“With native communities utilizing the internet and social media to tell essentially our own stories, The Last Real Indians [website] was started with the basic idea that native issues, Indian issues, are seldom if ever covered in mainstream media,” he said.

“So instead of trying to bang on their doors… we just do it ourselves as native peoples. So what you’ve probably been seeing over the past several years is natives capitalizing on that, and being able to tell our own stories and to reach ….globally.”