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Traverse City Natives Get Recognition with Approval of Indigenous Peoples Day

Traverse City, Michigan has never officially recognized Columbus Day, but now the city will celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day in October.
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Traverse City, Michigan has never officially recognized Columbus Day, according to Interlochen Public Radio, but now the city will celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day.

The day will be celebrated on the second Monday in October, the same day as Columbus Day, a federal holiday. The purpose of this celebration will be to celebrate all Native Americans in the Traverse City area. City Commissioner Jim Carruthers told IPR that showing appreciation for the city’s Native American history is overdue.

“We’re always talking about what the white man has done around here but I’ve always scratched my head about why we … don’t have some sort of significant historical monument that represents Native American history … the people that were here first,” he said.

“This is a really, really unique area and I think this recognition just helps to showcase how unique it is around here,” Randy Day, a member of Idle No More Michigan, told the Traverse City Record-Eagle. “We are going to work on the best ways to go about celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day... and just working on ways to bring the differing communities together.”

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The city itself won’t be helping in that part of the effort though. “It’s just out there, it’s not something we are going to do anything with,” Carruthers, who sponsored the resolution, told the Record-Eagle. “It would be nice if we did some kind of educational event, but I don’t think the city will take it any further... unless the Human Rights Commission does something.”

There were hugs and tears when the resolution passed on Monday, February 2. “To them it’s about a sense of worth outside of the Native communities,” Day told the Record-Eagle. “That other communities say you are worth something to us, we want you around. It’s a pretty big thing for a lot of Native people.”

Arlene Kashata, a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Chippewa Indians and Traverse City resident, told the Record-Eagle that she often works in schools educating students about Michigan’s indigenous people. Many ask her if they are still around and living in teepees, which is frustrating for contemporary Native Americans.

“This (resolution) not only represents that we have been here for 10,000 years or longer... more importantly it recognizes that we are still here and that we are alive,” Kashata told the Record-Eagle. “That we are a culture that is giving and contributing to this community.”

According to a community Facebook page set up to show support for the city’s Indigenous Peoples Day, a committee will be formed to figure out how to celebrate the holiday, and they plan to meet later this week. The committee will be garnering input from the community.