First official Indigenous Peoples Day proves satisfying, hopeful

Emotional day brings out thoughts on Columbus, future of Native languages

  • Natalie Soto, 2, helps sing with the All Nations Children Dancers as Juneau residents celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Richard Peterson walked to the microphone at Monday night’s Indigenous Peoples Day celebration at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall, clearly emotional.

Peterson, the president of Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of America, immediately told the crowd of more than 300 people to bear with him as he shared his frank, straightforward thoughts on the first officially recognized Indigenous Peoples Day in Alaska.

“This is not an insult to those who are not indigenous,” Peterson said, “but this is recognizing the people whose land that you’re standing upon, people who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. People who have lost their land, their culture, traditions.”

Gov. Bill Walker, who was in attendance Monday, issued a proclamation in 2015 that made Alaska the first state to rename the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day. Since 1937, Columbus Day has been a federal holiday honoring the Italian explorer who landed in the Caribbean in 1492.

Read the full story by the Juneau Empire.

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