Poetry, music, dance and a “precolonization” feast will be part of the celebration Monday as Minneapolis marks its first-ever Indigenous Peoples Day.
The holiday formerly known as Columbus Day was created earlier this year by a vote of the Minneapolis City Council, which said it was an attempt to recognize the history and contributions of American Indians in and around the city. Minneapolis is one of the first large cities in the United States to make such a change.
As on Columbus Day in the past, city offices are closed and parking meters won’t be enforced. But advocates of the change say the observance of Indigenous Peoples Day is far more than a name change.
Jay Bad Heart Bull, president of the Native American Community Development Institute, said the change marks a big step for communities that have been pushing back against negative stereotypes and traditions for decades.
“It’s a validation and a correction of a historical wrong that has perpetuated a negative image of American Indian people, by celebrating somebody that has really been nothing but bad for American Indian people and indigenous people across this continent,” he said.
The city’s celebrations will be held at the Minneapolis American Indian Center, 1530 E. Franklin Ave. They’ll begin at 4 p.m. with performances and speeches from Mayor Betsy Hodges, U.S. Sen. Al Franken and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, among others. It will continue with food and a keynote address by activist and former vice presidential candidate Winona LaDuke and wrap up with the 6 p.m. screening of a film: “Manidoowaadiziwag Ikwewag (Women are Sacred.)”
Elsewhere in Minnesota, two other cities will also hold alternative Columbus Day celebrations.
Duluth, which has a city Indigenous Commission, swapped out Columbus Day for the new holiday several years ago. The city of Red Wing made its own change earlier this year, opting to celebrate Chief Red Wing Day.
Barbara von Haaren, the head of the city’s Human Rights Commission, said the focus of the day will be a special presentation at the council meeting. Officials will hand out the Amos Owen Award, which commemorates the life of an Indian who advocated for peace and equality efforts — and recognizes other locals who do similar work.
Bad Heart Bull said he and others plan to extend the push for scrapping Columbus Day to St. Paul and to the entire state.
Minneapolis City Council Member Alondra Cano, who was one of the leaders behind the change, said she sees the holiday switch as a first step to bigger policy changes that could help American Indian people in the city.
“It’s much more than a symbolic gesture,” she said.