Nearly two dozen people gathered Monday afternoon outside Baltimore’s City Hall to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day and urge Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young to sign the bill to formally rename the holiday in Baltimore.
Filled with singing and dancing, the demonstration was organized by Indigenous Strong and comes days after City Council voted to change Monday’s Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples' Day. But Young has yet to decide whether he plans to sign the bill.
“We cannot be more grateful as indigenous people,” said Jessica Dickerson, of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and an Indigenous Strong member. “Columbus is not someone who we should celebrate and we call on Jack Young to recognize that.”
Tavi Hawn, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, urged Young to recognize the symbolic importance of the name change. Hawn also said Young should “focus on more than one thing,” taking a shot at the mayor’s comments on Friday when Young said he hadn’t thought about the bill and felt there were more pressing issues facing the city.
Democratic Councilman John T. Bullock, the bill’s sponsor, brought his two sons to the event so they could “witness history.”
“There are different shades of people, but we are all connected and a part of this history,” Bullock said.
City Council President Brandon Scott said the name change isn’t about Christopher Columbus but instead about those who were “unseen for so long.”
The Democratic nominee for mayor also said that each year, the renamed holiday will become bigger and bigger, and he urged people to celebrate in the future.
“You will never be better if you continue to learn the broken lessons of the past,” Scott said.
Members of Indigenous Strong have pushed for years for the shift from Columbus Day. They say the 15th century Italian explorer shouldn’t be celebrated because of how he and his crew treated native people. Columbus has been depicted in textbooks as someone who discovered the Americas, rather than as a colonizer who violently enslaved native people.
The annual Columbus Day parade in Little Italy scaled back its usual celebration this year and instead opted for a wreath laying ceremony Sunday at the site of the former Columbus statue near Little Italy, which was torn from its base and dumped into the Inner Harbor on July 4.
Nic Powell has been attending Indigenous Strong events for about four years to show support and solidarity for indigenous people and to help make sure they weren’t “pushed aside."
The 31-year-old Mid-Govans resident brought his son to the celebration because he strives to make sure his boy understands and participates in important current events. Powell said he hopes event’s like Monday’s rally inspire his soon-to-be 10-year-old son to become a leader.
“This has a direct impact on how we educate our youth,” he said. “And this change makes it better for our youth.”