The Seattle City Council has voted unanimously to celebrate “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” on the same day as Columbus Day, the federally recognized holiday, reports the Associated Press (AP).
According to the AP report, the resolution that passed on Monday declares “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” the second Monday of October and intends to honor the contributions and culture of Native Americans and the indigenous community in Seattle.
Supporters of the action said it will recognize the rich history of people who have inhabited the area for hundreds of years.
“This action will allow us to bring into current present day our valuable and rich history, and it’s there for future generations to learn,” said Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation on the Olympic Peninsula, and president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.
“Nobody discovered Seattle, Washington,” she said to audience applause.
Italian-Americans and others objected to the move, saying the change honors one group while it dismisses those with Italian heritage.
“We don’t argue with the idea of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. We do have a big problem of it coming at the expense of what essentially is Italian Heritage Day,” said Ralph Fascitelli, an Italian-American who lives in Seattle. “This is a big insult to those of us of Italian heritage. We feel disrespected. America wouldn’t be America without Christopher Columbus.”
Columbus Day celebrates the arrival of Christopher Columbus, who was Italian, to the Americas on October 12, 1492. Though the day is a federal holiday, it is not a legal state holiday in Washington.
Seattle councilmember Bruce Harrell stated that he understood the concerns from people in the Italian-American community, but he said, “I make no excuses for this legislation.” He said he co-sponsored the resolution because he believes the city won’t be successful in its social programs and outreach until “we fully recognize the evils of our past.”
Councilmember Nick Licata, who is Italian-American, said he didn’t see the legislation as taking something away, but rather allowing everyone to celebrate a new day where everyone’s strength is recognized.
David Bean, a member of the Puyallup Tribal Council, told councilmembers the resolution demonstrates that the city values tribal members’ history, culture, welfare, and contributions to the community.
The Bellingham City Council is also concerned that Columbus Day is offensive to Native Americans and will consider an ordinance on October 13 to recognize the second Monday in October as Coast Salish Day.
Last week, the Seattle School Board decided to observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the same day as Columbus Day.
Similarly, Minneapolis moved to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Columbus Day, and South Dakota will celebrate Native American Day, reported the AP.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is expected to sign the resolution October 13, spokesman Jason Kelly said.