More than 100 supporters packed the Council Chambers in Flagstaff, Arizona, on Tuesday, March 8 to advocate for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and they are one step closer to achieving that.
During that meeting, the Flagstaff City Council unanimously decided to move forward with a plan that could see Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrated on the second Monday in October, but Columbus Day will not be replaced, reported AZDailySun.com.
The council agreed to move ahead with a three-step plan prepared by council member Eva Putzova. The first step would be to analyze how the city is implementing a 2012 memorandum of understanding between the city and the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission. After that, the city plans to hold public forums in order to hear concerns and find solutions to injustices faced by indigenous community members. Once that is all complete, the city will vote on designating an Indigenous Peoples Day.
AZDailySun.com reports that on March 8, supporters shared stories of friends and family members experiencing racism from law enforcement and business owners in Flagstaff.
Daisy Purdy, a student and faculty member at Northern Arizona University, read a statement signed by more than 230 Flagstaff residents, that said asked the city to: “honor indigenous histories, respect indigenous contemporary holistic wellbeing, and work intentionally and diligently for the benefit of future generations of Indigenous Peoples.”
“Conversations about race, racism, traditions… are never easy, but that does not mean it should be avoided,” said council member Coral Evans, who compared the challenge to Columbus Day to the removal of the Confederate flag in South Carolina. “What do I think about Indigenous Peoples’ Day? Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, said on June 22, 2015, ‘this is a moment in which we can say that that flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state.’ I think the same can and should be said of Columbus Day.”
Jamie Yazzi, a grad student at Northern Arizona University, said she is constantly fighting for appropriate representation for Native people, reported AZDailySun.com. “I often do not feel safe or welcome here in Flagstaff because I am Navajo,” she said.
Radmilla Cody, a recording artist, gender abuse advocate, and former Miss Navajo, thanks Putzova for introducing the plan, and said: “Today, we see the reality Columbus helped to create. We see it here in the border town of Flagstaff and other border towns where homelessness, racial profiling, discrimination, racism, and the desecration to sacred sites are clear and evident towards indigenous people, their lives, intelligence, and lands. By voting on this proposal, you will be on the right side of history and it will be a step towards having critical discussions in addressing a long history of racism, violence, and the marginalization of indigenous people.”
“Indigenous Peoples Day is a step toward acknowledgement, acceptance, and healing within our community,” said Lyncia Begay, a lifelong resident of Flagstaff and part of Nihígaal bee Iiná.