Goodbye, Columbus? Arizona celebrates first Indigenous Peoples' Day

www.tucsonweekly.com
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fairly difficult
WASHINGTON – Native Americans in Arizona finally celebrated Indigenous Peoples' Day as an official state holiday Monday – but it was a win with an asterisk.
click to enlarge Photo by Calah Schlabach/Cronkite News)

Brent Huggins, right, a member of the Cherokee Nation, and D.C. Council candidate Ed Lazare prepare to lead a group of protesters around the Columbus Memorial Fountain at Washington's Union Station. The group was advocating to remove the statue of Christopher Columbus. Huggins, the event's organizer, said his Native heritage informs his climate activism.



After years of advocacy by tribal groups, Gov. Doug Ducey last month signed a proclamation making Oct. 12, 2020, a joint celebration of both Indigenous Peoples' Day and Columbus Day, but just for this year.

"I've been working on this for years now and so when the governor signed the proclamation, … we were all taken aback," said state Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai, D-Cameron, who first introduced a bill to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day in 2013.

"And so we're surprised and we're very thankful," she said, calling it a "step towards making it an official state forever holiday."

Peshlakai said she will use the momentum and reintroduce her bill in January to make the change permanent – and do away with Columbus Day. "We're in it for the long haul," she said.

While the Knights of Columbus would support a joint celebration, doing away with Columbus Day would be a mistake, said Arizona State Deputy Mario Vassallo in a statement.

"Instead, we ask that all local and state government leaders take on an honest and thorough examination of Columbus (vision, voyage, struggles, achievements)," Vassallo's statement said. "When they do, they will find that he was not at Wounded Knee or the Trail of Tears."

The national Knights of Columbus still looks at its namesake with pride, noting in a press release…
Cronkite News, Calah Schlabach
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