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Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrated in Tucson

Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 5:28 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - On Friday, Oct. 8, President Joe Biden became the first person in his shoes to issue a proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

While local Indigenous leaders feel the move is a step in the right direction, they acknowledge there is more work to be done.

In an area rich with Indigenous and Mexican heritage, Tucson has a Christopher Columbus park.

“We’re on O’odham land. We have this community that was started on the legacy of the Tohono O’odham people,” said Gabriella Cázares-Kelly, the Pima County Recorder.

Some, have today off work, but not Cazares-Kelly, a Tohono O’odham woman. Her two kids had school Monday, as well.

“They had school, I had work, the only person in our household who had today off for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, is my husband, who is not Indigenous,” she said.

The first presidential proclamation for Indigenous Peoples’ Day has made history, but there is still no federal holiday, while Columbus Day is established by Congress. Arizona State senator, Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson, another Indigenous woman, said it’s a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done, especially as other nations have given apologies.

“It’s a day for us to celebrate all those accomplishments, but as I had one person point out to me on Twitter today, but it’s still Columbus Day,” said Gonzales. “I really encourage Arizona, the governor and President Biden…to follow the lead of Mexico and Canada.”

They hope eventually they can celebrate this day with their communities in a meaningful way, and both feel today should also be about the accomplishments of Indigenous people, from veterans to trailblazers in the community

“We really need to make it a state and federal holiday every year,” said Gonzales.

The president, while making his proclamation said it’s a day to recognize the “resilience and strength” of indigenous peoples, but to also “acknowledge the painful history of wrongs and atrocities” the European explorers inflicted on tribes.

Indigenous Alliance Without Borders is hosting a virtual event with panels. Many other leaders made statements today about indigenous peoples’ day.

Arizona state senator Victoria Steele said in a statement:

“It’s been a long time coming. For centuries, U.S. policies have deliberately attempted to kill-off or assimilate and displace Indigenous peoples. We are grateful to President Biden, the first sitting president to issue a presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples Day. As Americans we have an obligation to know the full history of our country. Particularly here in Arizona where everywhere we walk, we are treading on Indigenous lands. There are some 6.8 million Indigenous People in this country who are very much alive and to finally celebrate our culture and the enormous contributions of Native People to this country is a recognition that is long overdue. I am so glad that this finally happened in my lifetime.”

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