On Wednesday, Saint Paul, Minnesota took a big step forward and joined a growing list of metropolitan areas that have renamed Columbus Day to “Indigenous Peoples Day.”
The Saint Paul City Council passed a unanimous resolution to “declare the second day in October as Indigenous Peoples Day in the City of Saint Paul; encouraging other institutions to recognize the Day; and reaffirming the City’s commitment to promote the well-being and growth of Saint Paul’s American Indian and Indigenous community.”
A community-led effort resulted in Wednesday’s historic progress, with the Minnesota American Indian Chamber of Commerce and the St. Paul Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity Commission spearheading the charge.
The resolution was not without controversy; one member of the Italian American community claimed the change would callously dishonor Italian Americans who hold the day meaningful.
After a brief discussion, however, the vote proceeded and Saint Paul turned over a new leaf.
Ashley Fairbanks, White Earth Ojibwe, commended the Saint Paul City Council for their efforts, in particular Council Member Dai Thao. “[He] was the first to offer his support and has been a great advocate for this as a racial equity related policy change,” Fairbanks told ICTMN.
Last spring, Minneapolis, Minnesota became the first major city to rename Columbus Day, quickly followed by Seattle, Washington.
Minnesota has steadily gained momentum towards change – last year a bill was introduced to re-engrave a Columbus statue from “[Columbus] Discoverer of America”, to “[Columbus] Landed in America”, while another bill aimed to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day statewide. Those efforts will be redoubled during the next legislative session.
Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation) is a tribal rights attorney in Washington, D.C., a founding member of NotYourMascots.org, and an all-around rabble rouser. Follow her: @zhaabowekwe.