Indigenous People’s Day — celebrating the heritage and contributions of Native Americans in Minneapolis — won unanimous support of the City Council at a meeting that overflowed the council chambers.
Beginning this fall, the holiday will be celebrated on October’s second Monday, the day the state and federal governments designate as Columbus Day.
“We are sending a signal across the nation and to the global community that we make these changes in the spirit of truth-telling,” Council Member Alondra Cano told a gathering before the Council meeting.
“This is not about Columbus; he is not the center of our existence,” added Cano, who led the drive to establish a new name for the holiday. “This is about the power of the American Indian and people in indigenous communities all over the world.”
The resolution establishing the new holiday explains, “Indigenous People’s Day shall be used to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous people on this land, and to celebrate the thriving culture and value that Dakota, Ojibwa and other indigenous nations add to our city.”
Said U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison, “Now that we have established Indigenous People’s Day, every child — whether that child is native or whether that child is not — will learn the truth about where America really comes from.
“This is so important because it’s difficult to imagine, if you are from the mainstream experience, how it feels to sit in a classroom and be told there was darkness and then Columbus came and then there was light,” Ellison said before the Council vote.
Indigenous People’s Day was first proposed 37 years ago by a Native Nations delegation to the United Nations. It was suggested again 13 years later by representatives of 120 indigenous nations gathered for a conference about 500 years of Indian Resistance.
Last year, the City Council approved “The Year of the Dakota: Remembering, Honoring and Truth Telling” to promote the Native American contributions to the city.
“I have a heavy heart knowing that so many did not live to see this day,” said Dianne Standing Cloud, “but my heart is also happy knowing my children and my grandchildren will grow up in a city that celebrates their indigenous heritage and culture.”
Said Bill Means, “Remember, we discovered Columbus. It’s kind of refreshing to be invited to this chamber, because usually we have the drums outside and people are marching. This marks a great change in our relationship.”
Following the vote supporters of the new holiday gathered in the rotunda of City Hall for a rally.
This action does not eliminate Columbus Day in Minneapolis. It remains, for now, in city ordinances and in city union contracts as a holiday and on parking meters as a day to park free. It is possible for those references to be changed.