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Time for OKC to ditch Columbus Day and embrace Indigenous Peoples' Day

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OKLAHOMA CITY – It is true that the City Council of Oklahoma City is largely populated with self-interested individuals who do the bidding of their corporate masters (save Ed Shadid, Pete White and –sometimes – James Greiner). And don’t get me started on the alleged pot-smoking mayor

Nevertheless, the City Council does answer to the people, or at least they should.

Back in the spring, Red Dirt Report argued that it was high time that Oklahoma City – and the state of Oklahoma, for that matter – should ditch Columbus Day once and for all (yes, we know it is a federal holiday, but why should that matter?) and replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Up in Seattle, Washington, that city’s City Council unanimously approved a resolution designating the second Monday in October as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” Columbus Day, as recognized by federal, state and local governments is on Monday, October 13th this year.

Oh, and yes, it does happen to coincide with Columbus Day, much to the ire of Italian-Americans who are, to quote one, “deeply offended” by this decision.

But as councilmember and Socialist Alternative Party member Kshama Sawant told The Seattle Times this week: Columbus, a 15th century explorer and imperialist, “played such a pivotal role in the worst genocide humankind has ever known” by playing a major role in the decimation of Native Americans already living here.

“Learning about the history of Columbus and transforming this day into a celebration of indigenous people and a celebration of social justice … allows us to make a connection between this painful history and the ongoing marginalization, discrimination and poverty that indigenous communities face to this day,” she said.

Added Sawant: “This is about taking a stand against racism and discrimination.”

Indeed. And while Councilman Shadid has indicated he would look at the idea further, no such notion has grabbed the attention of the rest of the council. Shadid is our best hope for getting something like this to move forward. Of course, heavily-monied, right-wing forces are working overtime to defeat Shadid's re-election in the spring. 

Indigenous Peoples' Day has found a home in Minneapolis, Minnesota and in South Dakota. With Oklahoma's large Native American population and well-known Native American history (heck, we have "Native America" on our license plates) isn't it time to "recognize the evils of our past," as Seattle councilmember Bruce Harrell put it?

We think so. The ball is now in your court, OKC City Council.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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