As Columbus Day celebration parades downtown native Americans demand recognition of Indigenous Peoples’s Day

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As the sound of a flute played in Pottawattomie Park on Monday, October 10th, three people began shouting over the Native song. A divide within the Native American community of Chicago took center stage in Rogers Park at what was meant to be a celebration and news conference hosted by the Indigenous Peoples Day Coalition-Illinois.

The coalition made up of 195 organizations and businesses across cultures, faith traditions, and neighborhoods, intended to call on city, county, and state officials to officially celebrate the history of Indigenous people on the second Monday in October. But three people with the Chi-Nations Youth Council, a local organization for Native youth, interrupted from the start, stating that one of the coalition’s founders “does not speak for us.”

Meanwhile, downtown, green, red, and white flags soared in the air as Italian Americans instead celebrated Columbus Day.

Indigenous Peoples Day has a storied history as a counter-celebration to Columbus Day held on the second Monday in October. The city of Berkeley in California replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in 1992. This year, President Joe Biden proclaimed Oct. 10 as Indigenous Peoples Day following his first proclamation recognizing the day in 2021.

Although Chicago Public Schools were closed Monday in observance of Indigenous Peoples Day, the celebration is not celebrated by the state of Illinois, Cook County, or the city of Chicago.

In Rogers Park, only three of the expected eight officials spoke for the Indigenous Peoples Day news conference because of the protesters: Ald. Maria Hadden of the 49th Ward, state Sen. Mike Simmons, and state Rep. Will Guzzardi, both Chicago Democrats.

Each speaker emphasized the importance of recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day. Hadden said she is still waiting for support for an ordinance she co-sponsored in the City Council that would make Indigenous Peoples Day an official city holiday. Anticipating new members in the upcoming election, she said she hopes the council can move past the “weird, sluggish politics.”

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