Richmond to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP/WHSV) — Virginia's capital city will recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day on Monday, joining a shift away from a day traditionally reserved for honoring Christopher Columbus.

Levar Stoney announced Indigenous Peoples’ Day during an Oct. 10 gathering with representatives from the Cheroenhaka, Chickahominy, Mattaponi, Nottaway, Pamunkey, Patawomeck and Upper Mattaponi tribes. (Source: City of Richmond)

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney has asked city employees and residents to use Monday as an opportunity to reflect on the culture and heritage of native peoples and their accomplishments in the face of "extraordinary hardship."

The federal government recognizes the second Monday in October as Columbus Day, but Richmond has never recognized it as an employee holiday.

Stoney announced Indigenous Peoples’ Day during an Oct. 10 gathering with representatives from the Cheroenhaka, Chickahominy, Mattaponi, Nottaway, Pamunkey, Patawomeck and Upper Mattaponi tribes.

Several states and cities nationwide have replaced Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, including Alaska, Vermont, Los Angeles, Denver, Austin and Seattle.

In 2017, the Charlottesville City Council voted to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day.

Karenne Wood, from the Virginia Foundation of the Humanities, said at the time that holidays like Columbus Day actually marginalize the role Native Americans played in our history, and overlook some of the things colonists did to indigenous populations – especially the mass rape and genocide carried out by Columbus himself.

She says Indigenous Peoples' Day is a way to confront that tricky history, even if it makes us a little uncomfortable to talk about it.

“I'd really like us to acknowledge that native people are part of the present as well as the past and to recognize that our history is problematic,” said Wood about the holiday. “It becomes more interesting when we look for the truth and when we are not afraid to confront what has happened in the past.”

The Charlottesville resolution said Indigenous Peoples Day "shall be used to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous people on this land and to celebrate the thriving culture and value that Indigenous nations add to Charlottesville."

Bills have been proposed in the Virginia legislature to officially change the holiday on a state level, but none have passed.