AUSTIN – The Austin City Council approved a resolution Thursday to recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day.
According to the group that pushed for the change, Equilibrio, Austin now joins 40 other cities that have passed similar resolutions.
The sponsor of the resolution, Council Member Ora Houston, said her initial intent was for the city to recognize both days, but amendments by Council Members Alison Alter and Ellen Troxclair to clarify the language to specify that failed to pass.
During the meeting, the Co-Director of Equilibrio told the council observing both days doesn't acknowledge the fact that people were already in America before Christopher Columbus landed here.
"It would look a little strange for Austin to be the only city that said we're going to recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day and also this guy who was genocidal against indigenous people. We think that's kind of talking out of both sides of the mouth and we think it's important that we're really clear about what we're recognizing and what we're deciding to step away from," Tane Ward told reporters after the resolution passed.
#ATXCouncil approves resolution recognizing the second Monday of every October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the City of Austin.— Austin Texas (@austintexasgov) October 5, 2017
The resolution also states the city will encourage Austin schools “to include the teaching of Indigenous Peoples’ history.”
Columbus Day became a federal holiday in 1937. Council Members and supporters of the change say they hope if enough cities adopt Indigenous Peoples' Day, the federal government will take notice and follow suit.
The City of Austin doesn't currently observe Columbus Day by giving employees time off, the holiday is just notated on city calendars. So starting next year those calendars will instead say Indigenous Peoples' Day.
The Council also approved a resolution condemning the display of monuments and memorials of the Confederacy.
Across the country monuments, plaques and other memorials in public spaces that recognize or honor Confederate figures have been called into question. While there aren't statues on city-owned land in Austin, several streets are named after confederate figures or the confederacy itself.
Council Member Sabino Renteria grew up in East Austin and says these symbols were used to intimidate Black residents and are reminders of a painful history.
"My friends were African American and for them, just seeing the hurt that they went through when they weren't allowed to go into the Paramount, you know they had children's programs on Saturday mornings and they weren't allowed to go in there. And in the State Theater they were not allowed, the white pharmacy on the corner where they had air conditioning and ice cream. We had to go in and buy the ice cream and give it to them," Renteria recalled.
The resolution also requires the city manager to compile a list of the existing memorabilia, provide a cost analysis to remove and rename the symbols and give recommendations on where those items could be kept. That report is due back to the council in 90 days.
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