Alaska First State To Rename Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples’ Day

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Above Photo: From Lt. Governor Bryan Mallott/Facebook. This image was posted to Lt. Governor Bryan Mallott’s Facebook page on October 12. He says: “Today Alaska celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Alaskans join a few other states and a growing number of cities that have recognized the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This creates an opportunity to promote appreciation, tolerance, understanding, friendship, and partnerships among Indigenous Peoples and all Alaskans. Alaska Governor Bill Walker I encourage all Alaskans to celebrate the thriving cultures and values of the Indigenous Peoples of our region and to continue efforts to promote the well-being and growth of Alaska’s Indigenous community.”

This October 12 was momentous in Alaska, both Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker signed proclamations declaring the second Monday of October to be Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The state is the first to rename the federal holiday, but joins a number of other cities that have done so, including Portland, Oregon and Albuquerque, New Mexico this year.

“The more we can do to strengthen the ties between the communities that make up Anchorage and make up Alaska, the better,” Berkowitz told Alaska Dispatch News.

Liz Medicine Crow, president and CEO of First Alaskans Institute, told ADN that for her, the proclamations are, “a recognition that Indigenous Peoples matter to both the state of Alaska and the Municipality of Anchorage and it gives us a platform to continue to work on equitable law, policy and relationships.”

RELATED: Indigenous Peoples Day, Challenging Colonialism in Albuquerque and Beyond

The proclamation from the governor’s office encourages “all Alaskans to celebrate the thriving cultures and values of the Indigenous Peoples of our region and to continue efforts to promote the well-being and growth of Alaska’s Indigenous community.”

First Alaskans Institute posted this image of the proclamation on Facebook saying: “Alaska Governor Bill Walker proclaims Indigenous Peoples Day throughout Alaska – the FIRST state to do so!” (Courtesy First Alaskans Institute/Facebook)
First Alaskans Institute posted this image of the proclamation on Facebook saying: “Alaska Governor Bill Walker proclaims Indigenous Peoples Day throughout Alaska – the FIRST state to do so!” (Courtesy First Alaskans Institute/Facebook)

The announcement Monday was met with loud cheers and applause from the hundreds gathered at the First Alaskans Institute Elders and Youth Conference. Many wanted their pictures taken with the proclamations, and for many this was a signal to move forward.

“It’s about damn time,” Willie Hensley, a former state legislator, told ADN with a laugh. To him, the proclamations mean everyone in the state can move forward together. “There’s been a lot of repression. It’s time that people are able to feel a lifting of that repression.”

First Alaskans Institute posted this image from Anchorage on Facebooke: “Anchorage Mayor Berkowitz proclaims Indigenous Peoples Day the 2nd Monday in October in Alaska’s Biggest Village!” (Courtesy First Alaskans Institute/Facebook)
First Alaskans Institute posted this image from Anchorage on Facebooke: “Anchorage Mayor Berkowitz proclaims Indigenous Peoples Day the 2nd Monday in October in Alaska’s Biggest Village!” (Courtesy First Alaskans Institute/Facebook)

While Alaska is the first state to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, credit must be given to South Dakota, the first state to rename the federal holiday as Native American Day in 1990.