Indigenous Peoples Day Set for Minneapolis Vote


indigenous peoples day set for mpls vote.jpgColumbus Day in Minneapolis may soon be

celebrated as Indigenous Peoples Day if a coalition of advocates,

city leaders and organizations can convince a majority of the

13-member Minneapolis City Council to approve the change.

The effort is a result of recent

organizing by the Native American Community Development Institute

along with Minneapolis City Councilwoman Alondra Cano (Ward 9) and her policy aide and community member Ashley Fairbanks. The roots of the name change began at NACDI’s first

mayoral candidate forum held in November of last year.

“Last fall when we did our first

mayoral forum – which is kind of a historic moment, too – one of

the first times we had the candidates come down in our community and

talk about our issues on our own terms. And we had community members

ask questions of the mayoral candidates and one of them was ‘Are you

willing to un-recognize Columbus Day?’ and so at that time, a

majority of candidates said yes and one of them was Betsy Hodges who

was elected and is now our current mayor,” NACDI President and CEO

Jay Bad Heart Bull said. “And so everything aligned with our

community work and civic engagement and then the big shift in the

city council now with much more younger, progressive representation.

And then also leadership by Alondra’s office to really push this


More Than A Name Change

“It’s high time that we at least

make this effort to rally the community and show the city population

that we’re still here, we’re still vibrant, we’re still contributing

to make this a better city and a better state over all. The only way

we can do that is by recognizing and calling out things when they’re

wrong,” Bad Heart Bull said. “We’re starting with a deficit with

Columbus Day and we have to get to the point where we have an even

playing field before we can start making bigger moves, too. It’s one

of those things – and we don’t like the term ‘low-hanging fruit’ –

but it’s a name change but there’s so much significance with just

that name change for us.”

Cano shared his views on how a name

can impact more than a date on the calendar. She sees a more in-depth

problem that needs addressing.

“Whenever we talk to folks about it,

there’s a different recognition that Columbus does not signify

everything that’s all good and positive for all communities. So

there’s definitely a sentiment there of reclaiming that story,

telling a more complex story and uplifting some of the other factors

that happened when that era of time took place and displaced

community members from their lands and stole their cultural

knowledge, their historical knowledge passed down from ancestors,”

Cano said.

“From my perspective, as a Mexican

woman, as a Chicana activist, I see this as a very important issue

because it does matter how we name things, it does matter how we

remember history. It does matter because it shapes our decisions

today and what we want to do in the future. In being able to honor

our youth and being able to honor our families in a way that

recognizes being cultural assets and all of the contributions that we

have been giving to this country for centuries immemorial is

definitely a space we need to reclaim in the policy conversation.

It’s connected to the budget in how resources are allocated. It

shapes our contemporary opportunities and options to advance


NACDI leaders and Native activists

also look at this name change as an opportunity to engage members of

the urban Indian population. “For so long, everybody just takes off

Columbus Day and people just take a day off work. But for us what we

really need to do is mobilize the community. We have a day off of

work, we have a day that we can actually start doing some community

work, organize and engage with one another. Use it and leverage that

day or the day leading up to with politicians and elected officials

to push on state-level recognition as well,” Bad Heart Bull said.

So far, the process has been a moving

one for NACDI’s organizing director Daniel Yang. “This arose from

the community, it was carried on by leaders that NACDI works with and

NACDI’s relationship, especially with our Make Voting a Tradition

campaign and having the mayoral candidate making sure that community

members asked what they were concerned about. It’s kind of this

pipeline on how an engaged citizenry can really build things and move


Push Back

Although organizers are energized for

this effort to recognize the community’s contributions to the city’s

cultural landscape, Cano said that at least two city council

representatives have expressed some concern over what this would

signify in terms of logistics for the city’s union contracts.

However, she has been making the case that last year’s campaign

rhetoric regarding a One Minneapolis requires a change in attitude.

“I want to be respective of letting

people think about that for a minute and then also being forthright

about leading with the right vision and the right theme of inclusion

for a true One Minneapolis. We’ve all talked about One Minneapolis,

then this is a part of that One Minneapolis, it’s really about equity

and about acknowledging our indigenous history and our indigenous

values as a country that was founded on Native American land.”

She also added that empathy for Native

issues would be needed to bring about positive change in the Native

community. “I think it’s just a matter of thinking about this from

the Native American perspective for once. I think a lot of people are

used to thinking from a mainstream paradigm but we’re asking people

to put themselves in somebody else’s shoes for a minute, think about

how this history has played out, think about how this has been

written about in the books and will you join us in this journey to

really elevate and support a more positive and constructive and

inclusive way of telling history and engaging in community.”indigenous peoples day set for mpls vote 2.jpg

Beyond Native

Another sign of a congenial relations

that have been fostered within minority communities also includes the

name change itself. As opposed to a Native American or American

Indian Day, as is recognized in South Dakota, the organizers seek to

broaden what it means to be indigenous.

“The reasoning behind Indigenous

Peoples Day is that one of the things we’ve learned in our work is

that when you just say Native American or American Indian, you’re

really limiting your audience and who identifies as those things. But

when you say Indigenous, that really opens up the doors to millions

of other indigenous people across the world that we can stand in

solidarity with,” Bad Heart Bull said.

“We’ve all gone through the same

sort of struggle, just at different times and ways. I think that we

were intentional about calling it indigenous so that we could work

with communities that still identify as indigenous like a lot of our

Latino allies out there who come from indigenous cultures. Bringing

that and how can we work together to really start building bridges

amongst our cultures, because we all have so many beautiful things

that we can bring to the table. We’re stronger when we work together,

that’s the reasoning behind calling it Indigenous Peoples Day,” Bad

Heart Bull added. 

Showing Up and Giving Thanks

The resolution for Indigenous Peoples

Day is tentatively slated for a Minneapolis council vote on April 25.

If passed, it will mark the theme for the kick off to the Minnesota

American Indian month on May 1 at Cedar Field at the Little Earth of

United Tribes complex on Cedar Avenue and 24th Street.

Yang added that he hopes this will be an opportunity for the

Minneapolis Native community as well as other communities of color to

show up at the council meeting and show their solidarity when the

council takes the vote.

Both he and Bad Heart Bull remain

circumspect when it comes to the scope of work that’s made this shift

possible. “NACDI was the catalyst in working with the community,

but it builds on decades of work from other organizations, groups and

thousands of activists that have worked to push this, so by no means

are we just capitalizing on the grassroots work that’s been done …

It’s the Bellecourts, the grandmas, the youth groups, Little Red

Schoolhouse, Heart of the Earth. We’re just lucky stand on the

shoulders of all of these great leaders, activists and advocates in

our community. We feel like we would be doing a disservice if we

didn’t try to push even further and build on top of that foundation

that the laid for us young folk.”

For more information on the

Minneapolis city council vote on Indigenous Peoples Day and the

American Indian Month Kick-Off event, visit .