News

County board says no to Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Brian Larsen


A group of Ojibwe students from Cook County High School attended the most recent county board meeting with a request that the county proclaim Monday, October 12 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of honoring it as Columbus Day. The Cook County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to retain Columbus Day. (L-R) Joe Deschampe Jr., Jaden Aubid, Dyami Blackwell, Samantha Scalise, Michael Hendrickson, Trusen Gordon, Marcus Logan, Brent Sorenson. Seated: David Logan. 
Staff photo/Brian Larsen A group of Ojibwe students from Cook County High School attended the most recent county board meeting with a request that the county proclaim Monday, October 12 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of honoring it as Columbus Day. The Cook County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to retain Columbus Day. (L-R) Joe Deschampe Jr., Jaden Aubid, Dyami Blackwell, Samantha Scalise, Michael Hendrickson, Trusen Gordon, Marcus Logan, Brent Sorenson. Seated: David Logan. Staff photo/Brian Larsen Respectful, well-mannered, quiet but determined, 10 Ojibwe students from Cook County High School appeared before the Cook County Board of Commissioners on September 29 to make a case to have the county recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day.

The county currently recognizes August 9 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day and doesn’t celebrate Columbus Day, said County Board Chair Heidi Doo-Kirk.

As the Local Indian Education Committee (LIEC) student representative, Jaden Aubid read a statement on behalf of his classmates, which said in part, that by celebrating Columbus Day, the county was “reinforcing the negative stereotypes of us.” He called on the board to declare October 12 Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day.

Doo-Kirk asked the students to raise their hands if they supported the resolution read by Aubid, and all hands quickly shot into the air.

Commissioner Frank Moe, who represents Grand Portage, said when he was asked to read a resolution to support Indigenous Peoples’ Day, he felt it was his finest honor serving as a county commissioner. He then read the resolution and asked for a vote. The resolution failed 3-2 with Moe and Commissioner Jan Sivertson voting for and Commissioners Garry Gamble, Ginny Storlie and Doo-Kirk voting against.

Commissioner Gamble said Columbus Day, “celebrates Italian heritage as Columbus was Italian born; and although he never travelled to the North American continent, his journey did expand our awareness of the world as we knew it.

“I am all for creating a day to celebrate our Indigenous People, or Native Americans as some prefer, however, pick another day. Why discriminate against one group of ethnic peoples? Especially, when we claim we both value and celebrate diversity?”

Commissioner Storlie said, “I do feel Minnesota has recognized American Indian Day in August…” and added, “…I don’t want this to be a black and white situation. What would you do that would say, yes, we are recognized on this day?”

John Morrin, a member of the Grand Portage Tribal Council who attended the county board meeting with the youths answered, “We’ve always recognized who we were… But, the lack of truth in that whole holiday denigrates us as sovereign nations. We want to counter the misinformation that the United States of America has always celebrated. Columbus did not discover us, we were always here. He did not set foot on the American continent. …. It’s not so much that we would do anything so special, but it [the name change] would counter the lack of truth,” said Morrin.

Commissioner Jan Sivertson asked that Moe’s resolution be modified to recognize both Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Before Moe read the amended version, he said there was “No greater way for the county board to recognize and respect the people of Grand Portage. They are our brothers. They have asked for us to do this. I respectfully appeal to the county board to pass this motion.”

But after the reading of the amended version, it too failed 3-2, Storlie, Gamble and Doo-Kirk voting against and Moe and Sivertson voting for.

Established in 1892 by President Benjamin Harrison, Columbus Day has long been seen as contentious by indigenous people who note that Columbus—who never actually set foot on the continental U.S.—discovered the Bahamas and an island named Hispaniola (now called Haiti and the Dominican Republic) which were long populated by people before he got there, therefore rendering his “discovery” as anything but.

Sixteen states don’t recognize Columbus Day as a holiday and since 1990 South Dakota has celebrated Native American Day. This year both Minneapolis and Seattle have decided to honor the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

The proposed resolution

Whereas Cook County recognizes the occupation of Ojibwe homelands for the building of our county and knows indigenous nations have lived upon this land since time immemorial and values the progress of our society accomplished through and by American Indian thought, culture and technology;

And whereas Cook County understands the importance of closing the equity gap, between and by government entities, organizations and other public institutions and to encourage change in policies and practices to better reflect the capabilities of American Indian people and recognize our indigenous roots, history, and contributions;

And whereas, the idea of Indigenous Peoples’ Day was first proposed in 1977 by a delegation of Native nations to the United Nations-sponsored International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas;

And whereas, in an effort to reveal a more accurate and historical record of ‘discovery’ of the United States of America, representatives from 120 Indigenous nations at the First Continental Conference on 500 years of Indian Resistance unanimously passed a resolution to transform Columbus Day into an occasion to recognize the contributions of Indigenous people despite enormous efforts against native nations

And whereas, Cook County has a strong history throughout the years working together with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in support of the American Indian Community and its citizens' advancement in our current society;

And whereas, the United States federal government, the state of Minnesota, and Cook County recognize Columbus Day on the Second Monday, in accordance with the federal holiday established in 1937;

Now, Therefore, Be it Resolved by the Cook County, Minnesota Board that Cook County shall now also recognize the Second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Be it further resolved that Cook County shall continue it efforts to promote the well being and growth of the Cook County American Indian Community and Indigenous Community.

Be it further resolved that Indigenous Peoples’ Day shall be used to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous people on this land, and to celebrate the thriving culture and value, that Ojibwe and other Indigenous nations add to our county.


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2015-10-03 digital edition


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