Courtesy Jaclyn Roessel
The City of Phoenix has unanimously decided to celebrate Native Americans and their history over Christopher Columbus on the second Monday in October.

Take That, Columbus: Indigenous Peoples’ Day Unanimously Passes in Phoenix

Amanda Blackhorse

On Wednesday, Phoenix, Arizona, became the largest U.S. city to officially celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day in opposition to Columbus Day.

Group members of Phoenician’s for Recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day, Jeff Malkoon and Carlos Bravo, created the resolution, which passed unanimously 9 to 0. Malkoon said this has been a two-year effort.

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Various Native American groups, such as Indigenous People’s Day Arizona, the Phoenix Indian Center, and Arizona State University’s Indigenous Student group, supported the resolution. Prior to the council meeting, the groups as well as Native community members gathered to show their support.

Laura Medina, Native community member and co-founder of Indigenous Peoples’ Day Arizona, addressed the city council. Medina called for the abolishment of Columbus Day, but was met with push back by city councilman Jim Waring. Waring advocated for keeping Columbus Day, but to also celebrate the contributions of Native American people with the passage of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Medina reports this passage is a step in the direction, but added there is more work that needs to be done. She said the passage of Indigenous Peoples’ Day promotes building a more informed community. Going forward, Indigenous Peoples’ Day Arizona wants to continue to build a Native network to address issues related to the preservation of culture, land, water, and to address environmental issues in Native communities.

Navajo Nation community member and Heard Museum professional Jaclyn Roessel also attended and addressed the Phoenix City Council. She said the passage of Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a “good first step for Arizona” with regard to its relationship to indigenous people. She said she was happy to hear Mayor Stanton connecting the passing of Indigenous Peoples’ Day to the larger issue of changing the name of Squaw Peak Drive in Phoenix, which disparages Native American women.

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Malkoon says the goal was to celebrate indigenous people of the Phoenix region and to end the celebration of Christopher Columbus as an invader. He reports the city council did not move to abolish Columbus Day as a celebrated holiday because the City of Phoenix does not recognize the holiday.

Malkoon said he hopes that by starting at the municipal level in various cities, eventually this will influence the U.S. to abolish Columbus Day as as a federally-recognized holiday. The move away from Columbus Day has been a growing across the country as various cities and states have made the change.

Cities that have opted out of celebrating Columbus include Albuquerque, New Mexico, Portland, Oregon, St. Paul, Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Denver, Colorado, and Lawrence, Kansas.

To commemorate, the group Indigenous Peoples’ Day Arizona will be hosting a day of events Monday.

“Indigenous Peoples’ Day re-envisions Columbus Day and challenges a celebration of colonialism into an opportunity to reveal historical truths about the genocide and oppression of indigenous peoples across the Americas, to organize against current injustices, and to celebrate indigenous resistance and resilience across Arizona,” Indigenous Peoples’ Day Arizona wrote in press release.

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