Indigenous Peoples’ Day

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Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The Reno City Council last week approved a resolution recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

The recognition will not supplant the federally recognized Columbus Day on Oct. 14, however. Councilmember Oscar Delgado raised a concern after an initial draft of the city’s proclamation did not mention Columbus Day.

“One of the issues that I have with not removing Columbus Day and putting in Indigenous Peoples Day is, really, it’s not answering the very question in terms of why we’re even doing this,” he said. “I think the really big idea we need to consider here is that it’s really an acknowledgment that we’re rejecting oppression, that we’re rejecting systematic racism.”

The council’s adoption of the resolution came from the city’s Human Rights Commission, which put forward the effort. Ray Valdez wrote the language for the resolution, and the commission worked with staff to modify it. Valdez was joined by tribal members and supporters in August when they asked the city to remove Columbus Day from city recognition.

There’s been a simmering discontentment since the Columbus Day incident of 2016 when Nicholas Mahaffey, who is white, plowed through a crowd of Columbus Day protestors downtown. He ran over one protestor after being punched by two of the activists. Mahaffey faced charges for provoking an assault, and the two protestors faced simple battery charges.

Activists, who were advocating at that time for the adoption of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, wanted to see Mahaffey face hate crime charges. That didn’t happen. The Reno City Attorney’s Office said that there was not enough evidence to support such charges.

Raquel Arthur, with the American Indian Movement of Northern Nevada, was critical of the city’s handling of the incident at the time.

“We are disappointed in the charges brought against the driver,” she said. It is unreasonable that the victims of this hate crime are being charged.”

Valdez told the City Council in August that First Nations people are still healing from the incident, which made national headlines. He also said the proclamation had hundreds of local supporters.

Councilmember Devon Reese said that Columbus Day, because it is a federal holiday, won’t be impacted by the city’s adoption of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

He also said, “I believe the time has come for us to acknowledge that Columbus Day is not something we need to celebrate.”

Only two cities, according to City of Reno staff, have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Numerous other municipalities recognize both days.

“I think the Human Rights Commission, looking at those examples, felt strongly that we should recognize Indigenous People’s Day but didn’t necessarily feel that we needed to go so far as to abolish Columbus Day,” said Tess Opferman, the city’s community liaison.

Reese, however, proposed that the city’s proclamation make note that Indigenous Peoples’ Day is being recognized in place of any official Columbus Day recognition by the City of Reno. His motion unanimously passed.

Indigenous Peoples Day began in 1989 in South Dakota.