People filled the steps of Duluth’s City Hall on Monday afternoon to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day.
The day celebrates all Native Americans and their “ancestors who fought hard for us to be here today so that we could feel good and proud as Indigenous people,” said Babette Sandman, a member of the Indigenous Commission.
“In their honor, we say it's a good day to be Indigenous,” Sandman said. “In their honor, we say that this is Indigenous Peoples Day.”
Over 100 people came out to hear speakers talk about the work they are doing in the community — from the Misaabekong Ojibwe Immersion Program at Lowell Elementary School to the Twin Ports AIM Support Group to the Tatwii Recovery Center.
Duluth City Council president Renee Van Nett told the crowd of the resolution she planned to bring forward acknowledging the harm and ongoing historical and intergenerational trauma experienced by American Indian and Alaska Native children and communities due to United States' boarding school policy. The resolution calls on U.S. Congress to commission a study and report on boarding schools and to support reconciliation efforts to address the impact of historical trauma and genocide.
“I’ve received local testimony and emails about the issue, and people have been sharing their family's history,” Van Nett said. “It's real every day for people and they experience it every day, and the offset of what you are seeing on the street sometimes is because of that.”
Issues with Columbus Day
Columbus Day has been a federal holiday since 1971. It wasn’t until the 2010s that there has been a push to change it to Indigenous Peoples Day. Jeff Rop, associate professor of history at the University of Minnesota Duluth, said there are several reasons people often have pointed out that Columbus Day may be inappropriate to celebrate.
“One is that Columbus never stepped foot on what is now the territory of the modern United States; second is, whether or not he intended to, his arrival kicked off brutal colonization, conquest and genocide, including massive pandemics; and third, is that he also personally started the Atlantic slave trade,” Rop said.
Rop said a lot of the pushback against the anti-Columbus Day sentiment has been the idea that people shouldn't judge historical figures, like Christopher Columbus, by modern standards. Rop said we can.
“We can because we’re talking about him and his significance today,” he said. “It’s important to note that Columbus was judged very harshly by the people of his own day. He was arrested for his crimes against humanity and brought back to Spain for his brutal treatment of Indigenous peoples that he encountered.”