It was intended as a compromise: recognize the native people of the Salish Sea — as well as the European explorer who set the colonization of the New World in motion.
But that seemed like an odd juxtaposition to Edmonds City Councilmember Mike Nelson, who on Tuesday night proposed a last-minute amendment striking the name of Christopher Columbus from a resolution honoring Indigenous Peoples Day in the Snohomish County town on Puget Sound.
“It seemed hard to honor both the indigenous people and the person who brought about their demise,” Nelson said in a phone interview Wednesday.
The resolution originally presented to the council by the city’s Diversity Commission called for the recognition of both Columbus and the coastal Salish people who lived in the region before European colonization.
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Nelson’s amendment — passed 5 to 2 — made sure that the second Monday in October will be known as “Indigenous Peoples Day,” not Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day, according to the resolution passed unanimously Tuesday night.
Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, who is also on the diversity commission, said the goal of the resolution was to acknowledge a more accurate historical picture of the people who inhabited this continent before Columbus’s exploration.
The federal holiday is known as Indigenous Peoples Day in Seattle, Boston, Portland, Lynnwood, Yakima and Bainbridge Island, among others, she said.
Councilmember Dave Teitzel, who voted with the minority, said he wanted to pass the resolution as it was crafted by the diversity commission because its recommendation was carefully considered after substantial public comment.
“In this instance, absent a highly compelling reason to change it, I believe Council should respect the Diversity Commission’s well-considered recommendation,” he said in an email. “Second, it is correct that Columbus’ journey to the Americas opened the door to displacement and genocide of the native population. However, from a historical perspective, he was an important figure in our history. I don’t believe it serves a good purpose to take local action to strike his name from a particular date.”
However, Fraley-Monillas said in a telephone interview that Columbus was included in the resolution because the mayor had threatened to veto the resolution if Columbus was excluded.
“We were told he would agree to it as long as we kept Columbus in it, and we were like, well OK, he has the ultimate power of the veto, and we felt it was most important to at least get the Indigenous Peoples Day into the city records,” she said. The group discussed the possibility of amending the language to exclude Columbus in later years.
Mayor Dave Earling did not return messages left by email and telephone seeking comment.
“This is similar to what’s going on in our country with people wanting to keep Confederate statues as a reminder of the past,” Fraley-Monillas said. “Columbus is an important part of our history but it’s also important to remember what his movement started for the indigenous people.”