Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe Chairwoman Frances Charles, second from right, speaks about her tribe’s long-standing relationship with the city of Port Angeles after hearing a proclamation read Tuesday by Port Angeles Mayor Sissi Bruch, left, calling for Oct. 8 to be Indigeneous Peoples Day. Among the children taking part in the ceremony were, from left, Khyla Miller, 4, Zoey Henderson, 7, Malena Marquez, 11 and Shawnee Tom, 11. Seated at rear is Deputy Mayor Kate Dexter. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe Chairwoman Frances Charles, second from right, speaks about her tribe’s long-standing relationship with the city of Port Angeles after hearing a proclamation read Tuesday by Port Angeles Mayor Sissi Bruch, left, calling for Oct. 8 to be Indigeneous Peoples Day. Among the children taking part in the ceremony were, from left, Khyla Miller, 4, Zoey Henderson, 7, Malena Marquez, 11 and Shawnee Tom, 11. Seated at rear is Deputy Mayor Kate Dexter. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles council proclaims Indigenous Peoples Day

PORT ANGELES — As much of the nation celebrates Columbus Day on Monday, the city of Port Angeles and a growing number of other cities will honor Native Americans and their cultures.

With members of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe looking on, the Port Angeles City Council on Tuesday proclaimed the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day.

The proclamation read by Mayor Sissi Bruch aims to “promote tolerance, understanding and friendship, and to combat prejudice and eliminate discrimination stemming from colonization.”

“We are humbled,” said Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles, who was surrounded by youth from the tribe’s culture program.

“We are very humbled that this is taking place, and we thank the City Council and the mayor for stepping up and doing what we feel is honorary.”

A 5-1 majority of the City Council voted Sept. 18 to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day on Columbus Day, a federal holiday that marks the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World on Oct. 12, 1492.

Cherie Kidd voted no and Jim Moran abstained, saying Indigenous Peoples Day should fall on a day that is sacred to Native Americans rather than an established holiday.

All seven council members said they supported having an Indigenous Peoples Day.

Critics of Columbus Day have said the Italian explorer initiated genocide against native peoples after he landed in the Bahamas, believing he was in Asia.

The Tacoma City Council also passed a resolution Tuesday recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day on Columbus Day, joining more than 70 jurisdictions that include Seattle, Spokane and Olympia, according to KING5 News.

The Port Angeles proclamation recognizes that the city occupies Klallam ancestral land and “values the many contributions Indigenous People have made to our community with their knowledge, labor, technology, science, philosophy, arts and the deep cultural influences which have shaped the character of our city.”

“The City of Port Angeles recognizes that systemic racism toward Indigenous People perpetuates high rates of poverty and income inequality, exacerbating health, education and social crises,” the proclamation states.

The one-page certificate concludes by encouraging citizens to celebrate indigenous cultures and to promote the growth and well-being of indigenous communities.

Bruch, a former Lower Elwha senior planner, spearheaded the effort to establish Indigenous Peoples Day on Columbus Day.

“Our hands go up to all of you for the hard work and the dedication that has transpired,” Charles told the council.

“I’ve very honored to stand here with the youth and have them here participating with us because that’s what it’s really all about to us — our future and the communities surrounding.

“We’re neighbors,” Charles added. “We’ll continue to be neighbors and collaborate and partner with the agencies and the departments that we do with the city and the county and all of the others.”

Jonathan Arakawa of the Klallam Drum Group led the tribal youth in a singing of the Skokomish Tribe’s “Happy Song.”

“It’s a very honorable day today,” Arakawa said.

“I also want to raise my hands to the City Council, the mayor, deputy mayor and honorable council members for taking this honorable step to recognize our indigenous people that surround the Olympic Peninsula and throughout Indian Country.”

The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, which includes all tribes of the Olympic Peninsula, voted in 2011 to support changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Council “supports the city of Port Angeles in their honorable efforts to acknowledge indigenous people” through recognizing the second Monday in October, to Indigenous Peoples Day, according to a resolution.

The tribe will observe Indigenous Peoples Day as a paid holiday.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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