OBERLIN — The city is poised to be the first in the state to recognize Indigenous People Day instead of Columbus Day.
Council members voiced support during a presentation by the Committee for Indigenous People to adopt the holiday at the Council meeting Monday.
The committee was formed last year after Three Eaglecloud held a protest of Columbus Day in Tappan Square. The protest included a visual of nooses to represent the deaths of indigenous people who refused to convert to Christianity.
In speaking to Council, committee member Morning Dove appealed to the city’s “rich history of human rights” as a reason it would be fitting for the city to adopt such a resolution.
“It would be an awesome show of solidarity if this resolution was passed by City Council before the next Columbus Day rolls around,” Morning Dove said.
Columbus Day is Oct. 9.
Morning Dove said celebrations of Christopher Columbus are based on “mythology and folklore” and not the truth of how he treated indigenous people.
“Telling the truth of U.S. history is essential when fiction increasingly replaces fact and treaties continue to be dismissed,” Morning Dove said.
The committee worked with Joella Byron-Dixon, a senior at Oberlin High School, who researched how the celebration of Columbus Day affected the mental health of indigenous youth.
She said she found the trauma of the celebrations along with other trauma contributed to higher rates of suicide among indigenous people.
Council expressed their support for the resolution following the resolution. The city’s Human Relations Commission also unanimously endorsed Indigenous People Day.
“(Councilman) Mr. Bryan Burgess and I last year were having a cup of coffee and realized that Columbus Day was coming up, and I was surprised that was still a thing in Oberlin,” Councilman Kelley Singleton said. “I thought that was something we would have taken care of a long time ago. I am all for it and look forward to passing a resolution on it.”
Oberlin Prosecutor Frank Carlson, who was filling in at the meeting for the law director, said he saw no legal issues with things like shutting City Hall for Indigenous People Day instead of Columbus Day, as Columbus Day is a federally recognized holiday.
“Because we’re the first city in Ohio that will do this, I want to make sure we’ll do it right as an example for all other cities,” Councilman Bryan Burgess said.
Council President Ronnie Rimbert said the city is working to “fast track” a resolution for Indigenous People Day and residents should expect progress soon.
“We’ll have something put together in the near future,” Rimbert said. “I can guarantee you that.”
Three Eaglecloud was emotional when thanking Council for its support and speaking against Columbus Day’s establishment by the federal government in 1937.
“I’m very pleased by what you guys have been doing,” Three Eaglecloud said. “I don’t think they really knew much about Mr. Columbus then, because if they knew who Mr. Columbus was, they would not have tried to put this in place. Thank you for considering to eliminate the holiday.”
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