How we recognize and celebrate each other is important. That’s the basis behind a proposal scheduled for introduction Tuesday by City Council Member Raquel Castañeda-López and a coalition of Indigenous leaders in Detroit, who want to declare the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, instead of Columbus Day.
The City of Detroit recognizes the need to honor Detroit’s Native American community, Michigan’s twelve federally recognized tribes, the historic tribes and the Indigenous people who have traveled from across the Americas to live and work in the city, according to the collaborators.
“I am excited for the opportunity to honor and recognize my indigenous ancestors and to shed light on the history of our city and country that is often forgotten,” stated Castañeda-López. “This resolution reflects our commitment to being a welcoming city to all.”
Castañeda-López has worked with the Indigenous communities in Montana at the Missoula Indian Center and in Detroit at the American Indian Health & Family Services.
“Uplifting Indigenous Peoples’ Day allows Native peoples dignity by recognizing their roots in relation to the land, which in turn supports their growth and flourishment,” said Christy Anishinaabebekwe, a southwest Detroit community member. “This shift in knowledge is the first step towards the coming actions in solidarity that will lead to healing and positive sustainable strides for all those that call Detroit home.”
“Recognizing the massacres Columbus unleashed on Indigenous people throughout the Americas and shifting from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a way to not only honor the survival and resilience of Detroit’s diverse Indigenous communities today, but to also bring healing,” said Dr. Sandra Gonzales, Assistant Professor of Bilingual Education, Wayne State University.
“To truly heal we need to acknowledge the harm that was done and heal by celebrating the resilience of Native Americans and African Americans,” said Essi Hollier Jackson, Muskogee Creek & an African American Detroiter.
The celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day will help highlight the many contributions of Indigenous communities, recognizing Detroit is home to the highest concentration of Natives and Latinx people.
This resolution urges Mayor Mike Duggan to ensure all public offices shall refer to the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day rather than Columbus Day. It also strongly encourages all Detroit Public Schools, charter schools and other child care/educational facilities operating within the city to join in the celebration. The resolution also supports the removal of the Christopher Columbus bust in downtown Detroit and the installation of a tribute to an Indigenous figure in its place.
Representatives from the Native community will be present at Tuesday’s City Council meeting to give a short presentation and urge the adoption of the resolution.
“The Wayne State Native American Student Organization (NASO) discussed the Indigenous Peoples’ Day proclamation at our last meeting. We are in full support of this initiative, and members of our group will be at the City Council meeting to show our support.” said Kimberly Kleinhans (Chippewa and European) President Wayne State NASO.
“As a Detroit nonprofit serving the Native community, American Indian Health and Family Services encourages the Detroit City Council to vote in favor of replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Following the footsteps of many other cities, this decision would show the City of Detroit’s commitment to the indigenous people that live in and visit the City,” said Ashley Tuomi, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, CEO of American Indian Health and Family Services.
With the passage of this resolution, Detroit will join the growing number of cities and states across the United States adopting and celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Leading up to the passage of the resolution, Wayne State’s Native American community will host its 4th Annual Peace and Dignity Ceremony. The ceremony is an event held in response to Columbus Day, and it celebrates the survival of Native American communities in North, Central and South America. It will take place Monday, October 9 at 4 p.m. at the northwest entrance of the Purdy Kresge Library on Wayne State University’s campus.
Photos courtesy of City of Detroit