PORT ANGELES — Indigenous Peoples Day and Juneteenth will be added to Port Angeles municipal code this month if the City Council adopts a pair of measures it requested from staff.
The council conducted a first reading Tuesday on two ordinances that would recognize Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday in October and Juneteenth on June 19.
Amid nationwide protests that followed the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., the council passed a proclamation June 16 to recognize Juneteenth, which celebrates the day in 1865 when the last of the Africans who had been enslaved heard they had been freed.
It was two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
“On this occasion, the City encourages its officials and employees, local organizations, and all members of the community, to commemorate the day in 1865 when news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached the last confederate state, Texas, and the slaves learned of their freedom,” the draft ordinance reads.
Council member Mike French suggested changing the sentence to read “enslaved people learned of their freedom.”
“They were not defined by their condition,” French said in a 4 ½-hour council meeting Tuesday.
“They were people that were enslaved by other people.”
In October 2018, a former council passed an Indigenous Peoples Day proclamation with dignitaries from the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe on hand.
The ordinances before the council this month would add the unofficial holidays to municipal code. The council is expected to approve the measures after a second reading July 21.
“These ordinances are valuable additions to our Port Angeles municipal code, and we look forward to paying our respects to the historical importance these days represent, not only on the day of, but every day,” City Manager Nathan West said in a council memo.
Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin proposed adding the word “economics” to a sentence in the draft Indigenous Peoples Day ordinance that states the city “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.”
“I think that’s a great sentence,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
“What I’d like to suggest is that we consider adding economics to that as well. The Salish peoples throughout the Pacific Northwest practiced a gift economy that created a lot more value and sustainability throughout the community.
“And so kind of recognizing that with that specific word,” he added, “is kind of what I’m suggesting.”
At the June 16 council meeting, Mayor Kate Dexter requested that staff prepare an Indigenous Peoples Day ordinance to accompany the Juneteenth ordinance.
“We will continue this item to the meeting on the 21st of July, where we will hopefully adopt them,” Dexter said Tuesday.
West said there had been much discussion over the years on ways the city could properly recognize local tribes.
“Past council members have had meetings with many local tribes, hoping to find a day the community could recognize and celebrate the culture and diversity local tribes offer,” West said in a council memo.
“On June 16, Council recognized Juneteenth with a proclamation which affirmed the City stands in condemning racism and violence, and pledges to support actions that seek to dismantle systemic inequity and bias, confront hate and violence, and more fully practice the City’s Statement of Values towards all in our community.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].