Columbus Day 2018 could ultimately be Grand Forks’ last.
That’s because city leaders are scheduled to take a first look on Monday at a resolution that would stop recognizing the holiday named after the infamous European sailor and forefather of North America's often-violent colonization. The resolution would proclaim the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day, instead.
“We know that history...has been written by people that aren’t necessarily of a collective,” said Courtney Davis Souvannasacd, an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and Grand Forks resident who’s one of many who hopes the city adopts the measure. “Throughout history, largely, our American Indian Indigenous voice has been left out of that narrative. We’re just trying to educate the public as to why this is important and how we can move forward in a new history together.”
Souvannasacd and other proponents are aiming to organize a crowd to head to Grand Forks City Hall on Monday night to urge leaders there to approve the resolution.
The move council members are set to consider has been made in cities across the United States. Minneapolis and Seattle have replaced Columbus Day, and even Columbus, Ohio, which is named after the colonizer, didn’t recognize it in 2017. Fargo and Moorhead have celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day for the past few years.
At least 122 cities and municipalities, three counties, two school districts, nine colleges and universities, and seven states have proclaimed an Indigenous Peoples Day, according to meeting documents submitted by City Administrator Todd Feland on behalf of City Council member Katie Dachtler, who on Friday told the Herald she supports the resolution.
“An individual who brought a lot of negative impacts upon the indigenous communities in the United States has his own holiday based on half-truths, I believe, and omissions of truth in some ways,” Dachtler said. “I don’t think that is within the line of what we are trying to do in Grand Forks, which is to create a welcoming community for everyone. I think that for a long time our indigenous community has been marginalized in many different ways, and I think that this is a positive step forward in building those relationships with that community.”
The Monday meeting is of the city’s committee of the whole, where council members meet to discuss city business but do not approve any measures. If the committee approves the resolution, it would head to a meeting of the council proper, which is scheduled to meet next on July 15.
As it’s set to be presented to Council members on Monday, the Indigenous Peoples Day resolution recognizes that Grand Forks was built upon the homelands of indigenous people in the region and that its construction would not have been possible without them. The resolution characterizes the day as "an opportunity to celebrate the thriving cultures and positive values of the Indigenous People of our region.”
It also encourages residents here to “explore and acknowledge Christopher Columbus’ violent and tragic mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples” and pushes other organizations, including Grand Forks Public Schools and the University of North Dakota, to recognize the day.
Souvannasacd and Dachtler stressed that the resolution isn’t intended to erase or replace history. Souvannasacd said the aim is to “correct” history and make it more accurate.
“It’s not to blame anyone, any ancestors of Columbus. It’s not to say we’re never going to talk about Christopher Columbus and the history that he’s had in the United States,” Dachtler said. “In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to talk about Indigenous Peoples Day and not reference Christopher Columbus.”
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