Regina

Local Activist Regina Tsosie of the Native American Coalition of the Quad-Cities wants Davenport officials to consider adopting Indigenous Peoples' Day

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Across the country, more and more cities have begun to recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day on or around what is known as Columbus Day.

The Native American Coalition of the Quad-Cities wants Davenport to become the latest and intends to petition the Davenport City Council to make that happen.

Coalition President Regina Tsosie and board member Tom Morrell attended Tuesday's Civil Rights Commission meeting to seek its recommendation before approaching the Council.

"Everyone knows that Columbus did not discover America," Morrell said. "He was not a very nice person and he was a slave trader. So should we even be recognizing this guy at all?"

The movement started in 1977 at the United Nations-sponsored International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas.

In 1992, the city of Berkeley, California, changed Oct. 12, which was the 500th anniversary of Columbus Day, to a Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People before renaming it Indigenous Peoples' Day.

Since that time, more than 22 cities have recognized Indigenous Peoples' Day with three states, Hawaii, South Dakota and Vermont, following suit.

Morrell told the commission that the city also has a history of mistreating Native Americans, from the incarcerations at Camp McClellan to Gen. Scott, the county's namesake, capturing members of the Sioux.

But rather than focus on the misdeeds of Christopher Columbus or the fact that he did not discover America, Morrell said the city could contribute to celebrating the rich history and contributions of Native Americans in the Quad-Cities.

"There were some very important treaties signed here and the history of trading with Native American people at Credit Island," Morrell said. "It would be a great thing to celebrate that."

While commissioners expressed support for the petition, they were unclear how it fits under their jurisdiction.

"I wholly support that, but I don't see how that fits into anything regarding the Civil Rights Commission," Commissioner Tim Hart said.

Morrell said that research from other cities showed that a recommendation from the Civil Rights Commission carried weight in successfully petitioning local governments.

Director Latrice Lacey said she had invited staff from the Affirmative Action Commission, which was better suited to lead the initiative.

Lacey also said this was not the first time the commission had been asked to change a holiday.

In 2010, the commission looked at changing Good Friday to Spring Holiday, but that was met with a huge uproar and death threats targeting commission members and staff.

Unlike Good Friday, Columbus Day is not recognized by the city as a day off and 3rd Ward Alderman Marion Meginnis agreed that it would not be within the commission's purview to take a position.

Commissioner Clyde Mayfield also suggested that the coalition make a presentation to the school systems so that an accurate portrayal of history was being taught to the next generations.

"They are the ones that teach our kids and it needs to be known and shown that people need to be informed," Mayfield said.

While the commission could not issue the letter that the coalition sought, the consensus of those in attendance was that it was a cause worthy of pursuing.

"I think it's worth taking up the fight," Alderwoman Maria Dickmann, 2nd Ward, said.

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