In the midst of a global pandemic, racial unrest, violence, and political upheaval, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners acknowledged the disproportionate impact of recent events on the Native community and recognized Oct. 12 as Indigenous People’s Day to celebrate their beauty and strength.
Native American Youth and Family Centers Community Advocacy Manager William Miller read the proclamation and spoke briefly about the historic discrimination of the Native community in the United States and Multnomah County and its erasure by historians.
“I was taught in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. And his voyage westward might have been true however there are parts of the story that are entirely omitted in order to paint a beautiful picture of Columbus’ contact with the Native people,” he said.
“After European contact, what followed for the Indigenous people in the Portland area, was a series of territorial and federal policy decisions to eliminate and later assimilate the Native people.”
He then explained the value of renaming Oct. 12, traditionally called Columbus Day, to Indigenous People’s Day.
“By acknowledging Indigenous People’s Day the county is allowing our people to reclaim identities stolen from us, while doing so, you are assisting us in making our often invisible populations visible again,” he said.
The Board of Commissioners thanked Miller for his statement, Commissioner Susheela Jayapal calling Indigenous People’s Day one of her “favorite proclamations”.
“These are annual themes, and they are perpetual themes, which are resilience and visibility,” Commissioner Jayapal said.
“It reminds me of an exhibit I went to at the Portland Art Museum, of the photography of Edward Curtis — a photography project that was intended to document Native Americans, because it was thought that at some point, because of an intentional process of genocide, Native peoples no longer would be here. You know it’s both shocking, shocking to remember that was the idea, that was the project, and on the flip side, so important to celebrate that it is completely erroneous, and [Native] people have thrived and persisted.”