Stanford considers proposal to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day with Columbus

Published 6:30 am Thursday, September 14, 2017

STANFORD – Stanford City Council members will decide next week whether to approve a proposal to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Oct. 9, the same day as the federal Columbus holiday.

Angela Garner presented the proposal to Stanford council members during the Sept. 7 meeting.

If passed, the proclamation will designate Oct. 9 as Indigenous People’s Day, along with the federal holiday Columbus Day, in Stanford and a celebration event would be planned.

Garner said the nationwide movement to celebrate Native American history and heritage began in California and has slowly spread to several other cities across the United States.

“It’s very important to study Columbus and Columbus’ role in our history, and colonialism, and European exploration. But we feel like it’s also important to have a balanced discussion also about Native American history and culture and Native Americans’ contribution to our society,” Garner said.

In an effort to do just that, the city councils nationwide have proposed to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day alongside Columbus Day on the same day.

“If you all pass this resolution, what would happen is you would put Kentucky on the map as the first city in the state of Kentucky to pass this resolution,” Garner said. “Particularly when it’s the first city in a state that passes the resolution, there’s nationwide coverage – CNN covers it, media outlets like the New York Times, Huffington Post, Fox News, you know, cover particularly when it’s the first city in a state that puts the state on the map.”

Garner said she has a potential speaker lined up for the event, if passed, as well as a Navajo flute player and Tomahawk woman from Canada do demonstrate vocals.

“ABC in Lexington and CBS has already indicated that they want to do interviews with the city council and mayor and myself and the commission about the historic event and also, KET’s Kentucky Life has indicated they want to come out the day of the event and do a segment on Kentucky Life about us, about Stanford and the first Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration in Kentucky,” she said.

Councilwoman Peggy Hester said she doesn’t see why there would be any opposition to celebrating indigenous people.

“I mean, they were here before we were, folks,” said Mayor Eddie Carter. “They lived in this country 10,000 years before we got here, before Columbus discovered America.”

Garner, who works for the Kentucky Heritage Council as a commissioner on the Native American Heritage Commission, said the governor recently signed a proclamation designating November as Native American month.

Councilman Scottie Ernst asked if Indigenous Peoples’ Day would always be celebrated on Columbus Day in the future if the resolution is passed.

“It could. That’s completely up to you,” Garner said. “You could decide to vote on it for this year or you could decide to vote on it from now on…it’s just a balanced discussion of our heritage. It doesn’t take anything from Columbus Day.”

Garner said it’s not an attempt to replace or rename Columbus Day.

“We’re just offering both sides of the story,” she said.

Rob Wilson, Lincoln County jailer, said the decision might be made by the city but it will reflect on the entire county.

“This in other states is being used in an attempt to replace Columbus Day,” Wilson said. “I would highly recommend that you research this before you drag out county into very controversial things. This is going along the lines of tearing down Robert E. Lee statues and all that. You really need to research this before you commit yourselves to this because the attention we get as a county may not be favorable.”

Garner said the proclamation is not intended to take anything away from Columbus Day or the role he played in history but instead balance the conversation to show both sides.

“What we’re trying to do here is balance the discussion and celebrate Native Americans and quite frankly, there’s nothing controversial about celebrating Native American history and heritage,” Garner said.

Irene Jaggers, of the Lincoln County Historical Society, said she was opposed to combining Indigenous People’s Day with the Columbus Day holiday. 

“I don’t think we should touch Columbus Day period. Let’s leave that alone,” she said. “I’m part Indian, but I don’t want to be messing up Columbus Day and try to celebrate both on that same day. There is no way that I want Columbus Day attached to this.”

Wilson said he is not questioning Garners’ motives, but asked the city council to research the issue before making a decision.

“If we don’t know what it is, we shouldn’t be voting on it,” said Stanford resident Jim Jarrett.

Carter said he agreed with Jarrett and recommended tabling the issue to seek more information before voting.

“Quite frankly, the historical society should be for it because…the historical society helps put together the reenactment and we don’t have a bunch of European settlers fighting themselves,” Garner said. “…There’s nothing controversial about this and if we wait too long to put it off, what’ll happen is another city will beat us to it. It’s just a matter of time and when this hits the paper, then somebody else is going to get the idea.”

Ernst made a motion to table the decision until more information is reviewed. All council members present voted in favor.

SO YOU KNOW

A special-called meeting will be held Tuesday, Sept. 19 at the L & N Depot in Stanford at 6:30 p.m. to discuss and possibly vote on the proclamation to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Oct. 9.