Tuesday, June 22, 2021

East Lansing City Council replaces Columbus Day with Indigenous People's Day

September 28, 2016
An East Lansing resident addresses the council during a city council meeting on Sept. 13, 2016 at East Lansing City Hall. The city council meets to take action on legislative matters on several Tuesdays of each month.
An East Lansing resident addresses the council during a city council meeting on Sept. 13, 2016 at East Lansing City Hall. The city council meets to take action on legislative matters on several Tuesdays of each month. —
Photo by Derek VanHorn | and Derek VanHorn The State News

This year instead of Columbus Day, East Lansing will be celebrating a different holiday on Oct. 10 — Indigenous People’s Day.

East Lansing City Council passed a resolution on Tuesday during the council meeting to recognize the holiday on the second Monday of October, replacing Columbus Day

The resolution follows other cities across the state, such as Ann Arbor and Traverse City, and the country, including Albuquerque, N.M. and Minneapolis, according to the resolution.

Supporters of the resolution spoke at the meeting and said Indigenous People’s Day better represents the values of East Lansing than Columbus Day.

“You could say Columbus was the first sex trafficker in America because he kidnapped girls as young as 9 years old and took them off to Europe to sell them into slavery,” second-year law student Emmy Scott said. “I don’t think that’s what East Lansing represents or what the community represents. In the time that I’ve been here, it’s been really welcoming and I’ve really learned a lot while I’ve been here.”

Scott, a member of the Winnebago tribe in Nebraska, said she came to MSU’s College of Law for its renowned indigenous peoples program.

The resolution aims to focus on the issues indigenous people face.

According to the resolution, “Indigenous People’s Day shall be used to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of indigenous peoples on this land and to celebrate the thriving cultures and value that the Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi and other indigenous peoples contribute to communities throughout Michigan, the United States of America and all over the world."

International relations senior Julia Christensen is a member of East Lansing’s Human Relations Coalition and was one of the members to work on the resolution.

“It was something that was brought up in a meeting that other cities are doing this, and East Lansing does have a long history of being very much on the leading edge of that sort of stuff,” Christensen said. “We have some of the broadest civil rights protections in the country and it just seemed to fit with East Lansing as an open and welcoming city, which is what we try to be.”

Members of the North American Indigenous Student Organization plan an event on Indigenous People’s Day every year, co-chair and world politics senior Cassandra Shavrnoch said.

“We usually do a protest style," Shavrnoch said. "But this year I think we’re going to try to do a candlelit vigil recognizing our ancestors. We haven’t finalized anything yet.”

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