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Columbus Day designated as Indigenous Peoples Day in Salt Lake City

Posted at 10:17 PM, Oct 03, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY - The Salt Lake City Council has officially declared the second Monday in October -- the day Columbus Day falls on -- as Indigenous Peoples Day.

Council members unanimously signed a resolution Tuesday night, to cheers and applause from a packed council chambers room.  The resolution not only designates the day, it encourages residents, businesses and schools to recognize and celebrate the day as well.

Council Vice Chair Charlie Luke said it brings honor to indigenous people, and also brings their history and culture to the forefront.

"It’s really to bring some attention to the indigenous populations," Luke said.

Before the vote, dozens gathered outside to rally support for the decision and celebrate the resolution.

Moroni Benally, Co-Founder of the Utah League of Native American Voters said it's a historical moment.

"The resolution is a symbol," Benally said, "with power and meaning in acknowledging a wrong doing to Native Americans.  It represents a step towards correcting a history that has been sanitized."

Senator Jim Dabakis (D-Salt Lake City) spoke at the rally. Last year he tried and failed to pass the bill on a state level, that would do away with Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day.

Dabakis said the Pioneer Day celebration on July 24 honors the pioneers' arrival and what they mean to this state, but there’s nothing for Native Americans who have been here thousands of years.

"There's 50,000 Native Americans and they get diddly-squat," Dabakis said. “There’s no remembrance, there’s no celebration.”

The Italian-American Civic League disagreed with the resolution, and said they sent a letter to the council urging them not to pass the resolution.

The letter states the designation is, "...not only an uncalled-for affront to our culture, but also degrading and demeaning to all Italian-Americans​..."

Luke said he didn't intend for the group to feel slighted, and said he doesn't see how it's an affront.

"We are not eliminating Columbus Day," he said. "We are simply adding another group to honor on the same day."​

This year Indigenous Peoples Day will be celebrated in Salt Lake City on October 9.