PORT TOWNSEND — Drums sounded and singing was heard in the Jefferson County commissioners’ chambers after the officials proclaimed Monday to be Indigenous Peoples Day.
The Jefferson Board of County Commissioners made the proclamation during their regular Monday morning meeting in the Jefferson County Courthouse to a crowd of Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe members, Makah Tribe members and other members of the public.
The movement to change the second Monday of October from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day was proposed to the United Nation in 1977, and in 2011, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (representing 59 tribal nations) passed Resolution No. 11-57 to “Support to Change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day.”
Tribal representatives were expected to be at the Port Townsend City Council meeting Monday evening, where Mayor Deborah Stinson also was expected to proclaim the day to be Indigenous Peoples Day.
Commission Chair Kate Dean was happy to make the proclamation.
“I’m very proud to be proclaiming Indigenous Peoples Day,” Dean said. “[I have] a great deal of respect for our tribal neighbors.
“I promise to make amends … I promise to heal that history,” Dean said.
“We work with all the tribes on the Peninsula and it’s rewarding.”
Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Council Treasurer and elder Theresa Lehman shared the importance the day holds for her.
“I grew up in a time of prejudice,” Lehman said. “We were taught that Columbus discovered America and that’s not true.
“Because of Indigenous Peoples Day … we can now grow together and work together as one.”
Both S’Klallam and Makah tribal members performed two separate songs at the meeting and presented gifts to the three commissioners, sharing their traditions with them.
The Jamestown S’Klallam gave the commissioners shell necklaces and other gifts.
The Makah gave the commissioners a dollar coin as their gift.
“It’s an honor today to witness this … that our government is recognizing our past” Walter McQuillen of the Makah Tribe said. “We gave you that dollar to remember that things come back. We’re all one in this community and we thank you for that.”
The respectful celebration closed with Jamestown S’Klallam members inviting the Makah members to drum and sing with them to close out the celebration in a third and final song.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5 or at [email protected].