OBERLIN — The same group that protested Columbus Day in Tappan Square last year was back this year to celebrate the city’s first Indigenous Peoples Day.
The mood was joyous Monday as cars drove by and honked horns in support of the city’s shift to replace Columbus Day with a day honoring indigenous people.
During the protest last year, Three Eaglecloud, an Oberlin resident, burned sage in front of a display of 13 nooses, which he said represented how Christopher Columbus and his followers murdered indigenous people when they refused to convert to Christianity; the number 13 stood for one redeemer and his 12 apostles. During a speech, he said it would be his last year fighting for change.
“Last year was such an emotional time here when Three Eaglecloud announced his retirement and that he was tired of fighting,” said Cindy Byron-Dixon. “Some of us decided to take up the banner and decided to a fight for him right here in town and we met monthly for almost a year, and we couldn’t be more excited that Oberlin Council unanimously agreed to abolish Columbus Day. It’s one of the prouder moments of my life.”
Last month, Oberlin became the first city in Ohio to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day after many months working with Byron-Dixon and others on the Indigenous Peoples Day Committee to put together a resolution.
Morning Dove Jean Simon, a member of the committee, said Three Eaglecloud was not feeling well enough to come to the celebration Monday.
Next year, Simon said, the committee will have more time to plan a bigger celebration.
“We’ve received a lot of support from many organizations,” Simon said.
In addition to gathering in Tappan Square, the committee held a dancing and drumming event Saturday and a service of reconciliation at Peace Community Church on Monday night. The library also is showing a series of films on the experiences of indigenous people.
Sundance, the executive director of the Cleveland American Indian Movement and an Oberlin resident, said other cities have reached out after Oberlin’s success to see how they could follow suit.
Sundance’s son, Devon Schultz, an eighth-grader at Langston Middle School, left class midmorning to take part in the celebration.
He’s been proud to share his knowledge of Indigenous Peoples Day with his classmates.
“It’s a good topic to talk about at the lunch table. Just something to talk about to get your brain working,” Schultz said. “Now that it’s a positive thing, I’m out there, I’m helping out, and I’m very glad that it was changed and now it’s something that I can put more effort into celebrating and supporting as opposed to last year when I just sort of shoved it off.”
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