The Seattle City Council, offering another trademark symbolic act, unanimously voted Monday to proclaim the second Monday in October as “Indigenous Peoples Day,” a date previously and popularly celebrated as Columbus Day.
A major celebration is planned next Monday at City Hall, on a date now officially set aside to “celebrate the thriving cultures and values of Indigenous Peoples in our region.”
The resolution, opposed by some Italian-Americans, did not mention Christopher Columbus, the Genoese explorer who sailed the ocean blue in 1492. Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), detail from Allegory on Charles V of Habsburg (1500-1558) as Ruler of the world, painting by Peter Johann Nepomuk Geiger (1805-1880), Throne Room, Miramare castle, Trieste, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
It noted, however, that “Indigenous Peoples of the lands that would later become known as the Americas have occupied these lands since time immemorial.” Anthropologists have not put a date on the crossing of the Bering Land Bridge believed to have begun the native settlement of North America.
(Congress voted in 1980 to create a national preserve at the Alaska end of the now-submerged Bering Land Bridge.)
The Seattle resolution’s nine “whereas” clauses — a modest number, since council members Mike O’Brien and Nick Licata have gone as high as 19 Whereases — constituted a liberal litany. A sampling:
– “Whereas the City of Seattle has a responsibility to oppose the systematic racism towards Indigenous Peoples in the United States, which perpetuates high rates of poverty and income inequality, exacerbating disproportionate health, education and social crises;
–”Whereas the City recognizes that Seattle is built on the homeland and villages of Indigenous Peoples of this region without whom the building of the City would not have been possible.”
The council has a long tradition of symbolic actions. It adopted a 2011 resolution endorsing objectives of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. In 2012 it called for amending the U.S. Constitution to overturn the 2010 Citizens United ruling in which the Supreme Court overturned a century of efforts to limit campaign spending.
A few years back, the council came within a single vote of passing a resolution to ban circus animals. And council members had to deliver mea culpas to Eastern Washington counterparts after passing a resolution that called for removal of dams from the Snake River.
Seattle has company on the renaming of Columbus Day.
The Minneapolis City Council voted in April to create an “Indigenous Peoples Day.” Similar action has been taken by Berkeley and Santa Cruz in California. South Dakota decided to replace Columbus Day with Native Americans Day. Alaska, Hawaii and Oregon do not celebrate Columbus Day.
The council’s resolution also encourages Seattle Public Schools to include “indigenous people’s history” in its teaching curriculum.
The resolution proclaims that it is “City policy to participate in the annual Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations and activities.” City departments are called upon to work with the Office of Civil Rights and the Seattle Human Rights Commission to maximize participation.