Home > News > History > City recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ Day

City recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ Day

By Bob Conrad
Image: Ty O’Neil.

The Reno City Council last week approved a resolution recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The recognition will not supplant the federally recognized Columbus Day on October 14, however, but it does note that the city recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of Columbus Day.

Councilmember Oscar Delgado raised a concern after an initial draft of the city’s proclamation did not mention Columbus Day.

Councilmember Oscar Delgado
Reno City Councilmember
Oscar Delgado.

“One of the issues that I have with not removing Columbus Day and putting in Indigenous Peoples Day is, really, it’s not answering the very question in terms of why we’re even doing this,” he said. “I think the really big idea we need to consider here is that it’s really an acknowledgment that we’re rejecting oppression, that we’re rejecting systematic racism, that we’re rejecting these things.

“We’re not really doing that if we’re saying we’re moving forward with Columbus Day,” Delgado added.

The council’s adoption of the resolution came from the city’s Human Rights Commission, which put forward the effort. Ray Valdez wrote the language for city resolution, and the commission worked with staff to modify it. Valdez was joined by tribal members and supporters in August when they asked the city to remove Columbus Day from city recognition.

There’s been a simmering discontentment since the Columbus Day incident of 2016 when Nicholas Mahaffey, who is white, plowed through a crowd of Columbus Day protestors downtown.

“I believe the time has come for us to acknowledge that Columbus Day is not something we need to celebrate.”

He ran over one protestor with his truck after being punched by two of the activists. Mahaffey faced charges for provoking an assault, and the two protestors faced simple battery charges.

Activists, who were advocating at that time for the adoption of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, wanted to see Mahaffey face hate crime charges. That didn’t happen. The Reno City Attorney’s Office said that there was not enough evidence to support a prosecution for such charges.

Raquel Arthur, with the American Indian Movement of Northern Nevada, was critical of the city’s handling of the incident at the time.

“We are disappointed in the charges brought against the driver. It is unreasonable that the victims of this hate crime are being charged. We demand their release,” she said.

Valdez told the City Council in August that First Nations people are still healing from the incident, which made national headlines.

“We’re still healing. We’re doing alright. Look at us,” Valdez said. “We’re asking you to meet us halfway somehow. Join us. It’s time to move forward. We’re coming as natives, saying okay.

“What is really said is that in the end, it was all about preventing Native Americans of thinking we’re even human beings.”

Valdez said the proclamation had hundreds of local supporters.

Reno City Councilmember Devon Reese.
Reno City Councilmember
Devon Reese

Councilmember Devor Reese said that Columbus Day, because it is a federal holiday, won’t be impacted by the city’s adoption of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“I believe the time has come for us to acknowledge that Columbus Day is not something we need to celebrate,” he said. “Obviously, we are not the federal government, so states and cities across the county can choose not to observe this particular day.

Only two cities, according to City of Reno staff, have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Numerous other municipalities recognize both days either formally or by not mentioning Columbus Day.

“I think the Human Rights Commission, looking at those examples, felt strongly that we should recognize Indigenous People’s Day but didn’t necessarily feel that we needed to go so far as to abolish Columbus Day,” said Tess Opferman, the city’s community liaison.

Reese, however, proposed that the city’s proclamation make note that Indigenous Peoples’ Day is being recognized in place of any official Columbus Day recognition by the City of Reno.

His motion unanimously passed.

Indigenous Peoples Day began in 1989 in South Dakota.

This article is published in partnership with in the Reno News & Review. It is available in their print edition and online.



J. Tyler Ballance October 11, 2019 - 5:32 pm

Mr. Dressler cites many myths that have been circulated about Columbus in recent years by various revisionist historians who have sought to discredit him. I think Mr. Dressler is quite correct in concluding that the Spanish and Portuguese explorers were from a much more brutal culture than most Americans of today can relate to. However, we should assess the actions of historical figures in the context of the times in which THEY lived and not our own times and social norms. For example, will future writers discredit explorer and astronaut, Neil Armstrong (the first Man on the moon) for being a White man, or for being someone who ate meat? One can just imagine the false indignation, “A meat eater! How barbaric. Take Armstong’s name off of every building and banish his image from all books.”

Let’s instead seek an honest verifiable recollection of facts in the context of the times in which historical figures actually lived in.

Explorers and Conquistadors such as Ponce de Leon, Cortes, Pizarro and Coronado, lived in a brutal time. If a sailor was disobedient or stole food from the crew’s store, that one criminal act could be punished by being drawn and quartered, but in most accounts the thief was just flogged. The conquistadors were heroes to their own people and certainly were seen in both a positive and negative light depending on their individual actions in the lands that they conquered. There are numerous accounts of various chiefs welcoming and meeting the Conquistadors and some had on-going peaceful relations with the exploring parties. So, it is illogical to believe that men like Columbus spent a lot of time lopping-off the heads of the natives who he met during his expedition, though the possibility that such encounters may have occurred were noteworthy exceptions to an otherwise productive exploration of what was deemed to be the “New World.”

Jack Dressler October 11, 2019 - 3:36 pm

Columbus was such a vicious, evil person, that he was locked up by the Kingdom of Spain for his crimes against indigenous people. The country of conquistadors and they couldn’t even tolerate him!

He chopped off body parts for kicks, for crissakes!

He was not even a smart or brave explorer. He was beaten to America by the Vikings 500 years earlier with much weaker boats and supplies. Who did not massacre all the natives for gold, nor thought they were in India.

The holiday is not celebrated even by the ethnic group it was created to pander to. The “tradition” is so “old” that there are people still alive today who lived when it didn’t exist.

Celebrating native peoples is to remember that they still exist and should be respected after all the genocide. That they never were “discovered” just as Marco Polo never “discovered” China.
I guarantee you there is no “Marco Polo Day” in China. Ridiculous.

Columbus day was always a bad idea. Like the abusive Residential Schools and segregation, it’s time to throw this bad idea into the dustbin of history.

J. Tyler Ballance October 11, 2019 - 12:59 pm

What I was alluding to is that, in some other publications, when a vote is being discussed, right at the top of the article is a box score type of graphic that shows who voted for and who voted against. That makes it clear to the reader right up front, how one’s respective representative voted on a particular issue. The side benefit is that the citizens can keep a running box score of their own on how their representative is performing.

I see that at the bottom of this article the resolution was unfortunately passed unanimously. I don’t think this Council thought this issue through. It appears that Council members Reese and Delgago are America hating Communists who seek to destroy the core tenets of our heritage. I suspect they will next seek to have the American flag banned from City buildings and ban or replace honoring our founding fathers with more generic, meaningless “peoples days.”
At least we now know who the enemies of our Republic are who reside amongst us.

J. Tyler Ballance October 10, 2019 - 8:27 pm

When you report on actions by elected bodies, it would be very helpful to list how each member of the Council or Commission voted (or if the vote was unanimous).

Back in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states there are millions of families with a mixture of Portuguese, Indian and Italian lineages (not an imaginary link like Elizabeth Warren’s 1/1024th to 1/64th Indian, either). It is ignorant to lump all of the tribes together as “indigenous people” and it is even worse to pit Italians, Indians and Portuguese against one another by showing contempt for a remarkably brave explorer, Christopher Columbus.

If Council really wanted to recognize and honor local tribes, then consult with the tribal councils first, then if they want their own day, by all means pass a resolution that cites the accomplishments of each specified tribe, such as, for example, the Northern Paiute and Washoe tribes.

Bob Conrad
Bob Conrad October 10, 2019 - 8:29 pm

Hi J. Tyler, the last part of the article mentions how council voted.

Comments are closed.

Share via
Send this to a friend