ST. PAUL, Minn. - As of Monday, both Twin Cities shelved the celebration of Columbus Day in favor of "Indigenous Peoples Day." Minneapolis made the change last year. St. Paul followed suit in 2015.
Hundreds gathered for lunch in the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe-owned Crown Plaza Hotel to observe the official proclamation of the new holiday. The event featured the Native Pride dancers and an invocation in the Ojibwe language.
"Columbus Day has always been difficult for Indian people, especially as children," said Melanie Benjamin, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe CEO. "Every native person in this room who attended a public school remembers being taught that Columbus, the man who is a symbol of genocide against native people, was a hero."
St. Paul Deputy Mayor Kristin Beckmann stood in for Mayor Chris Coleman, who is traveling from Japan.
"We recognize that the indigenous nation that was here before us, this land was not discovered," said Beckmann. "We also recognize, and this is the hard part of looking back at our history, we have the courage to recognize the deep injustices felt by our native peoples and we also have the courage to own our place in rectifying those deep injustices."
Minnesota Lt. Governor Tina Smith noted that Minnesota does not have a designated holiday on October 12th. State Law leaves the question up to each municipality.
"This day demonstrates, among other things, the power of organizing to move forward social justice and understanding," said Smith.
Earlier in the day, Joe Hobot, President of the American Indian OIC in Minneapolis told observers at the American Indian Center that history needs to be corrected.
"We have been here and our creation stories have taught us that we have been here since time immemorial," said Hobot, "and in recognition of that fact, we would like to move forward in celebrating our people, celebrating our culture and deconstructing some of the colonialistic type myths that have been associated with Christopher Columbus and the quote/unquote discovery of the quote/unquote new world."