SEATTLE — Cities in Washington state and across the country are telling Christopher Columbus to step aside, and will instead celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ day Monday.
Olympia, Spokane, and most recently, Yakima have joined the ranks of cities that are dispensing with Columbus Day in order to celebrate the native people that were already in America when Columbus arrived, and also to cast light on the explorer’s role in colonizing the country.
Seattle has celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day since 2014, and Colleen Echohawk, executive director at the Chief Seattle Club, a Native American community center, said she’s happy to live in a city that is no longer honoring Columbus.
“He was a man who did not treat people well, he did not treat indigenous people well, he perpetuated genocide, he was not a good person,” Echohawk said. “And so I want my kids to grow up in a country where we celebrate goodness.”
The United Indians of All Tribes Foundation will hold events around Seattle on Monday in honor of native cultures.
As the only self-identified Native American in Washington’s State Senate, Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, said the state has done much better than anywhere else in the country at respecting the rights and sovereignty of Native communities.
“I’ve always said that the relationship between tribes and the state is the best in the nation, but we have a long way to go,” McCoy said. “Yes, tribes in the state of Washington do get along better and respect each other’s sovereignty, but there are still issues that need to be addressed.”
Native issues have been in the headlines recently as protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Standing Rock Reservation continue. Echohawk said the Sioux Tribe is exercising its sovereign rights to its land and that many other Native Americans, including her brother and sister, have joined in solidarity.
“We’re talking about a sovereign nation. We’re talking about government-to-government relationships,” Echohawk said. “And so I think that this is so inspiring, it’s so exciting.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is concerned that an oil spill from the pipeline could contaminate their water supply.
Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.