By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
Indigenous Peoples’ Day will now be recognized in Dallas.
Dallas City Council members approved a resolution during its Oct. 8 meeting, declaring the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the city of Dallas – the day is usually known as Columbus Day across the country.
Dallas will join 130 city governments in making the switch to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, including Austin and six states, including South Dakota and New Mexico.
Berkley, California, was the first city government to adopt the change. The idea started in 1977 in the United Nations International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous populations in the Americas in Switzerland.
The resolution affirmed the city’s willingness to participate in annual celebration activities and promote the well-being and growth of the city’s American Indian and Indigenous community and in encouraging public schools to include teaching the history of Indigenous people.
It also calls for encouraging businesses, organizations and public institutions to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Council member Omar Narvaez of District 6 presented the resolution.
“I am really excited about this because this is a day we right a wrong for the folks that started here and made this land possible for protecting the earth so that we could be here today,” he said.
Council member Adam Bazaldua of District 7 also supported the resolution.
“I think this is a day that is long overdue,” Bazaldua said. “I was a teacher before being on the City Council, and it is sad to see the lack of knowledge on what the history of our country really looks like. I think it is very disheartening, and it speaks volumes to a lot of the issues we have in this country and city today – the fight for equality, the fight for equity for all that we see began with Indeginous people. It began with a struggle to continue to fight and struggle with what belonged to them.”
Several members of the Native American community spoke on behalf of approving the resolution, including Leroy Pena, national director of the Red Handed Warrior Society.
“When you think about the history of this area, my tribe was an occasional visitor here, but other tribes such as the Wichita and Caddo were long time residents of this area,” Pena said. “We are looking to make this an annual celebration. A celebration that is the history of my ancestors. But those of you who live here in this city or county this is also now your history too.”
Council member David Blewett of District 14 supported the resolution but wanted to make an amendment to some of the context.
“I fully support Indeginous Day but there is verbage in this resolution that does not celebrate the heritage, our heritage that we like, and I see no relevance in this resolution in mentioning Christopher Columbus,” he said.
Blewett wanted to strike paragraph seven of the resolution which reads: “WHEREAS, honoring the role of Columbus – who never set foot in Texas – as a historical figure promotes values of intolerance and violence that are still common in today’s world and is inconsistent with the value of Dallas as a welcoming community.”
Blewett said he wanted the resolution tailored to Indigenous people and celebrating their contributions and wanted to change it to read: “WHEREAS the city of Dallas recognises the responsibility to be an inclusive and welcoming community.”
“That really is the spirit of what this resolution should be,” he said.
Council member Bazaldua of District 7 disagreed and supported the original text.
“This is an opportunity to lay it all out,” Bazaldua said. “I think to ignore or omit just for ease of comfort is what led to the majority of the country celebrating Columbus Day and not Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Because that is what has been in our children’s history books. That’s what story has been told about our land and Texas. By taking that away, you’re saying that my daughter’s children don’t get to see the context of what’s behind the things of what we have done. You’re saying that generations to come don’t understand the importance of Columbus’ name is still associated with this and why we had to years later right a wrong.”
Council member Chad West of District 1 made an amendment to the resolution that also changed the wording of paragraph seven to read: “WHEREAS, recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day will better reflect Dallas’ values of being welcoming and tolerant.”
“I believe the way this is written still gets the intent across,” West said. “It is less negative sounding. It sounds more positive and is a good compromise.”
City Council members voted in favor with West’s amendment to the resolution by a vote of 11-3.