Oregon recognizes Indigenous Peoples Day; tribes see hope

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PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) – October 11 might look a little different in Oregon this year.

The second Monday in October, long celebrated as Columbus Day, will now be officially recognized as Indigenous Peoples Day in Oregon – a recognition of Native American communities here long before Christopher Columbus set foot in the Americas.

Among Oregon’s tribal leaders, the change represents a belated recognition and hope for the future, as well as a feeling that more could be done to recognize and support Indigenous communities.

Oregon has many different Aboriginal communities, including nine federally recognized tribes: Burns Paiute of Harney County; Confederate tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians; Confederate tribes of Grand Ronde; Confederate tribes of Siletz; Confederate tribes of the Umatilla reserve; Confederate Tribes of Warm Springs; Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians; Indian tribe Shell; and Klamath tribes. According to the 2020 census, there are 129,081 Oregonians who identify as American Indian in whole or in part and native to Alaska, representing 3.1% of the state’s population.

Roberta Frost, Secretary of the Klamath Tribal Council, Recount The Oregonian / OregonLive moving forward like this is always moving in increments, and that new recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day is just one step in that process.

“At times in our history, we were almost invisible, so it’s a small step forward,” Frost said. “That’s not all, but it’s a recognition that we’re still here, we still have vibrant companies.”

Gail Hatcher, vice president of the Klamath Tribal Council, added that it was not just about the present or the past, but also the future.

“When we are recognized and seen for who we really are, what we celebrate and why we celebrate it, it is a big step for my grandchildren and their children,” she said. “The prayer I have is that they will always be seen from this day forward.”

The Legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill declaring October 11 as Indigenous Peoples Day this spring, by 22 to 7 in the Senate and 50 to 5 in the House. The legislation was sponsored by the only Indigenous lawmakers in the Legislature, Representative Tawna Sanchez, D-Portland, and Representative Teresa Alonso-Leon, D-Woodburn.

Oregon is one of 13 states to recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day, joining the other states of western California, Alaska, Arizona and New Brunswick. Mexico. South Dakota celebrates this day as Native American Day and was the first day to replace Columbus Day, in 1989.

“Recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day is one more step in shining a light on the history of oppression and racism in our state and our country,” Representative Sanchez wrote in an email. “We can no longer pretend that what we have learned in history books is all there is in history. Teaching the truth to future generations will go a long way in healing the traumas of the past. “

The discussion between local and state governments to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day began to gain momentum in 1990, during the United Nations-sponsored International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas, although that governments have not started adopting the new holiday. en masse until 2014.

Tribes in Oregon said the local effort has been going on for years, with tribal leaders and young activists leading the way.

Oregon law is explicit in its goal of establishing Indigenous Peoples Day as an alternative to Columbus Day. The text of the legislation itself begins by saying that Christopher Columbus’ voyage “opened the door to heinous crimes against humanity, including, but not limited to, the introduction of transatlantic slavery and acts of genocide against indigenous peoples ”.

For some natives of Oregon, this denunciation is particularly important.

Brigette McConville, vice president of the Warm Springs Confederate Tribal Council, said the Columbus Day replacement was long overdue.

“It was a false celebration at first,” she said. “When they started doing this indigenous day all over the country, I think it was good, I think it was positive, it lifted the morale of all the indigenous people.”

Robert Kentta, director of cultural resources and member of the Confederate Tribal Council of the Siletz Indians, said Columbus Day was never a holiday celebrated by his community. The official state recognition of the new holiday is a sign of respect Oregon’s natives have long wanted, he said.

“We’ve had some pretty tough times with the United States and the state of Oregon in our history,” Kentta said. “The state’s shift from Columbus Day celebration to Indigenous Peoples Day is an important signal to the rest of Oregonians that we are in this more collaborative and respectful time where our Indigenous history is seen as an important contribution to the nation. ‘State of Oregon. “

The new holiday should be a recognition of the past, present and future of Indigenous peoples, Oregon tribal leaders said – acknowledging the wrongs of the past, acknowledging that Indigenous communities are still here and working together for a better future.

Stacia Hernandez, chief of staff for the Confederate Grand Ronde Tribal Council, said it was important not only for the different tribes to come together, but for all cultures in Oregon to support each other as well, regardless of conflicts. the past. For her, this is part of the great potential of Indigenous Peoples Day.

“It’s about recognizing the damage that has happened, but growing from it and learning to communicate with each other and making sure that this damage that has happened in the past does not. never perpetuate in the future, ”Hernandez said. “Every culture and every community has a very unique past, and I think it’s about supporting each other when times are tough and moving forward and taking that step together.”

Despite all the hope and appreciation, however, some disaffection remains.

Armand Minthorn, a board member of the Confederate Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, said state officials had more work to do to restore relations with Oregon’s indigenous communities, including a better and more frequent communication, as well as greater collaboration, especially on public lands. .

“For the state to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day is one thing – it is quite another for them to follow their speech,” he said in a written statement.

He also said that non-natives could do more to learn more about their native neighbors and work to break down hurtful stereotypes. State-wide recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day doesn’t necessarily change daily life on reservations and other Indigenous communities in Oregon, he said, but there are many room for a better future.

“As Aboriginal people, we don’t really celebrate this day. Because every day is Indigenous Peoples Day for us. Minthorn said. “As long as we continue to recognize our ancestors, we recognize our traditional customs and language, things will continue to be the same. It would be very helpful for others to help us. Because we live side by side and share the same resources, why can’t we work side by side? “

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