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Depending on where you live, today is…

on October 11, 2010

In most cities, it’s Columbus Day… but in Berkeley, it’s Indigenous Peoples Day. Grass dancers shook to the beat of drums and non-Native Americans had the opportunity to learn about Native American culture through food, arts and craft, and traditional clothing at the city’s annual pow wow yesterday.

According to the Berkeley Indigenous Peoples Day’s website, the city renamed Columbus Day in 1992–the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage–and after the inaugural year, a free pow has been held in Berkeley’s Civic Center Park. The initial idea of replacing Columbus day was actually discussed back in 1977 at the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas. In 1990, representatives from 120 Indian nations gathered in Ecuador to speak about the upcoming anniversary during the First Continental Conference on 500 Years of Indian Resistance. It was during this meeting when a resolution was passed to replace Columbus Day.

Later that year, Northern California Indians met in Davis and Oakland, where a coalition of people–called the Resistance 500– were appointed to plan a celebratory 500 year anniversary for 1992. One part of the group focused on Berkeley, and even had the Berkeley City Council assign a task force to research the history behind the holiday. After reviewing the historical findings that “Columbus’s expedition was not a scientific ‘voyage of discovery,’ but a scouting mission for a scheme of imperialism and conquest,” the council officially decided to rename the holiday Indigenous Peoples Day.

For Berkeley residents, you’ll get to keep your spare change since parking meters aren’t enforced.  Unfortunately for Oakland residents, the same doesn’t apply–parking meters will be enforced. Also, city facilities in Oakland are closed, as well as banks and post offices. The upside: most supermarkets, retail stores and restaurants will remain open, so if you’re lucky enough to work for a place that gives you a day off today, you can use it to your advantage.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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