By Lewis Kamb / The Seattle Times
SEATTLE — Each of the past five years, hundreds of people have gathered in downtown Seattle and in events throughout the city on the second Monday in October to honor Native American cultures and traditions.
Events in store to celebrate this year’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Monday include a rally and march through downtown Seattle, a community dinner and celebration at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center at Discovery Park, lectures at Highline Community College in Des Moines and an all-ages story slam with the theme, “Our Places, Our Stories.” The event will allow Native peoples and their friends to tell a five-minute story about “the place you are from,” with a prize to be awarded to the best story.
The resolution creating Indigenous Peoples’ Day — as the Seattle City Council unanimously designated the day in 2014 — was drafted with support of activists and advocates from several groups, including the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and the city’s Human Rights Commission.
Elsewhere in the Puget Sound region, Edmonds and Bainbridge Island celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Bellingham celebrates “Coast Salish Day.” The Seattle School Board passed a resolution in 2014 to also observe the holiday in schools, which enroll about 1,600 students who identify as Native American.
The move to create the day in Seattle provoked some opposition from Italian American groups five years ago because October’s second Monday also is Columbus Day, a federal holiday since 1934 named for explorer Christopher Columbus that’s widely marked by the celebration of Italian American history and culture.
Berkeley, California, reportedly was the first city in America to mark Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1992. Today, at least six states and more than 100 cities and towns nationwide have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The council for the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., voted this month to change the name under emergency legislation that lasts only this year.
Because Washington state doesn’t recognize Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples’ Day doesn’t replace it, nor is Indigenous Peoples’ Day an official city holiday — just a day to honor Native people. Columbus Day, however, is federally recognized, so mail isn’t delivered and federal workers get the day off.