Spokane Changes Columbus Day To Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Spokane just changed Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The Spokane City Council voted to approve the referendum on Monday evening, August 29, following the lead of cities like Seattle and Minneapolis. A report from the Spokesman-Review states that the measure was carried by a 6-1 vote, backed by the support of Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart. He spoke out in support of the measure before it passed.

“In order to heal, we have to accept what the past was for what it was.”

Representatives from many local tribes were in attendance to show their support for the vote. That included members of the Spokane, Colville, Inupiat, and Nez Perce tribes. The Spokesman-Review quoted a 13-year-old member of the Inupiat tribe who was in attendance. She spoke in part about how she felt classrooms don’t teach the full story.

“I would hope the country could celebrate a day when indigineous people, and people that have gone through so much, could have a voice.”

The response from Spokane residents has been mixed, with one of the council members also speaking out against the legislation. Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan felt that there needed to be continued recognition for the contributions that Christopher Columbus had to world explorations. He was the only council member who voted against the resolution. Fagan had earlier called the measure, “political correctness pandering to special interests.”

“One word I haven’t heard is forgiveness. I haven’t heard that one time tonight.”

The resolution to change the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day was put forth by Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart. An earlier report from the Spokesman-Review touched on his motivations for writing it up, where Stuckart stated that Columbus should not be celebrated. He also noted that Columbus had enslaved indigenous people on the island of Hispaniola, feeling that this was not someone who Spokane needed to be honoring.

Within the resolution, the Spokane City Council outlined what the efforts to pass the legislation meant in terms of recognition and respect. It was called, “an opportunity to celebrate the thriving cultures and values of the American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Indigenous Peoples of our region.”

In the state of Washington, Columbus Day is not an official state holiday. State workers still have to be on the job, schools are in session, and there is a long history of protests against the celebration of Christopher Columbus. This dates all the way back to when President Franklin Roosevelt declared that October 12 would be Columbus Day. President Lyndon Johnson would later declare it a federal public holiday to be celebrated on the second Monday of October.

While many residents of Spokane are pleased with the shift from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, many others have taken to social media to express their frustrations with the city council spending time on this legislation. The local news posted a story to Twitter and Facebook about the referendum, touching off many debates about why this change was considered necessary or a waste of time. Spokane resident Chris Evola commented, “Stupid, city of Spokane can call it what they want. It’s still Columbus Day to me.”

Another resident speaking against the action was local Windermere Real Estate agent Brandy Price. She posted, “Wow. Spokane tax dollars hard at work!! Did they also find what ketchup pours faster?? I have a whole list of useless, pointless, topics they can waste all our money on!!”

One of many local residents in support of the referendum is Anthony Gil.

“So proud to live in a city, state, and region that takes a stand for justice, peace, and reconciliation! Let’s celebrate the life and dignity of the indigenous peoples of our state, not their oppression and destruction.”

Another supporter is Stefanie Marchard Reuben, who appeared very disgusted by some of the nay-sayers on social media.

“After reading these comments, any other Native (or non-native) not feel so safe in this city? So much hate and racism towards us. We, the indigenous people, have flown under the radar for so long, oppressed people like YOU. Why is it so hard to give us ONE DAY. Thanks for reminding me of how ignorant the rest of the world is. So much hate, it makes me sick.”

The resolution is officially in place for the City of Spokane, likely setting the stage for other major metropolitan areas to make a move from calling it Columbus Day to calling it Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

[Photo by City of Spokane]