Wave Wire Services
LOS ANGELES — A celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day was held Oct. 10 at Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles, featuring performers, blessings, speakers, entertainment and food and the lighting of City Hall in turquoise.
The celebration was planned by the office of City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, a member of the Wyandotte Nation, who authored the 2017 ordinance that declared the second Monday in October in Los Angeles as Indigenous Peoples Day, replacing Columbus Day as a holiday on the city calendar.
“As a citizen of the Wyandotte Nation and the first Native American on the Los Angeles City Council, one of my sacred duties as an elected official has been to increase the visibility, dignity and representation of Native Americans and indigenous people,” O’Farrell told City News Service prior to the event.
“Los Angeles is built on indigenous land. The Civic Center itself stands where a Tongva village once stood. Replacing a day honoring a person who never even set foot in the United States — and whose arrival in the Americas served as the catalyst for centuries of genocide against Native Americans — with a day honoring First Nations and indigenous people — was an important step for Los Angeles to take.
“At the time the City Council created Indigenous Peoples Day, in August 2017, the city of Los Angeles was the largest jurisdiction in the United States to take such an action. This was enormously powerful and a major step forward for our city,” O’Farrell added. “We cannot erase the sins of the past, but we can learn from our history, and make choices that move us toward a better future — one that is rooted in equity, and in a full accounting of the truth of the times that came before us.”
The 2017 ordinance also helped usher in the 2018 removal of the Christopher Columbus statue from Grand Park and O’Farrell’s 2021 introduction of the Indigenous LAnd Initiative, a series of policies including a formal apology from the city to Native American tribes for instances of violence, mistreatment and neglect committed by the city or that the city was associated with.
“The creation of Indigenous Peoples Day is more than just a day and it’s not simply the conclusion of an effort,” O’Farrell said. “It is the dawning of a new era in which Native Americans and Indigenous people are formally welcomed, embraced and involved in the civic life of Los Angeles. This was long overdue, and promises a much brighter future for all of us.”
Los Angeles County also created an Indigenous Peoples Day holiday in place of Columbus Day.
City and county offices were closed for the day, although county courts were open. They were closed Sept. 23 for Native American Day.
In his proclamation declaring Oct. 10 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, President Joe Biden said, “On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we honor the sovereignty, resilience and immense contributions that Native Americans have made to the world and we recommit to upholding our solemn trust and treaty responsibilities to tribal nations, strengthening our nation-to-nation ties.
“For centuries, indigenous peoples were forcibly removed from ancestral lands, displaced, assimilated and banned from worshiping or performing many sacred ceremonies. Yet today, they remain some of our greatest environmental stewards.
“They maintain strong religious beliefs that still feed the soul of our nation. And they have chosen to serve in the United States Armed Forces at a higher rate than any other group. Native peoples challenge us to confront our past and do better, and their contributions to scholarship, law, the arts, public service and more continue to guide us forward.”
Columbus Day remains a federal holiday.
In 1907, Colorado became the first state to declare Columbus Day a holiday, marking the anniversary of the day in 1492 a sailor on board the Pinta sighted land. The next day, the 90 crewmembers of Columbus’ three-ship fleet ventured onto the Bahamian island that he named San Salvador.
Columbus Day became a federal holiday in 1968, celebrated on the second Monday in October under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.
In his proclamation declaring Monday as Columbus Day, Biden said, “In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed from the Spanish port of Palos de la Frontera on behalf of Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II, but his roots trace back to Genoa, Italy.
“The story of his journey remains a source of pride for many Italian Americans whose families also crossed the Atlantic. His voyage inspired many others to follow and ultimately contributed to the founding of America, which has been a beacon for immigrants across the world.”