PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland has joined the list of cities marking the second Monday in October as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”
A resolution unanimously approved by council Wednesday honors the contributions of Native Americans in the Portland area and says the city has a responsibility to oppose “systemic racism” toward indigenous people and promote their well-being.
It’s no coincidence that it falls on the same date as the federal Columbus Day holiday, established in 1937 to commemorate Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas in 1492. Many Native Americans say the holiday is a painful reminder of oppression.
“Christopher Columbus — the Columbus dude — was not English,” British-born City Commissioner Amanda Fritz said before her vote. “I’m so happy he was not English because there are so many things that I apologize for that my ancestors did, including the subsequent invasion of this country and the genocide that happened.”
Minneapolis and Seattle approved similar resolutions last year, and some smaller cities followed. In Seattle, some Italian-Americans criticized the move, saying it disregarded their heritage. Nobody testified against the Portland declaration.
Representative from several tribes testified in favor, describing it as a way to honor those with indigenous ancestry, help heal old wounds and educate Portland residents about Native American culture.
“The European arrival in the Americas certainly was pivotal in history, however it was far from its beginning,” said Jeremy FiveCrows of the Nez Perce Tribe. “For far too long, thousands of years of indigenous culture, history, learning and wisdom has been dismissed or ignored as prehistory that has nothing to do with today.”