Evanston to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Robin Opsahl, City Editor

Evanston plans to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, joining other cities around the country that have made the change.

In making the decision, city officials worked with the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, which issued a news release Wednesday announcing that the day will be celebrated annually on the second Monday of October. However, city manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the switch to Indigenous Peoples’ Day is not yet official, as Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl has not issued a proclamation confirming the new holiday.

Tisdahl is expected to make the proclamation before October 10, which would be the first Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Evanston, Bobkiewicz said. The city does not officially observe Columbus Day currently, and no public facilities are planned to close with the new holiday.

“It might not really have many practical implications to us, but it has symbolic weight,” Bobkiewicz said. “I think the mayor wanted to make that symbolic gesture to the museum.”

Bobkiewicz said Tisdahl is a long-time supporter of the museum, and the decision to change the holiday was reached in a conversation initiated by museum officials.

“The leadership at the Mitchell Museum suggested we use the term Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” Tisdahl said in the release. “I believe it is the right thing to do and thank them for their work on this issue.”

Mitchell Museum will offer free admission all day on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, museum officials said in the release, and will host events in the coming months, such as a May “On the Table” discussion about the day and a summer forum for teachers about curriculum and programming around the day.

“Evanston was once home to tribes including the Ho-Chunk, Ottawa, Miami, and Potawatomi, and continues to be a home for Indigenous peoples with over 40,000 Native Americans currently living in the Chicago metropolitan area, representing over 150 different tribes,” museum officials said in the release. “By adopting Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Evanston embraces its history and the multicultural community it has become today.”

Medill junior Lorenzo Gudino, president of the Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance, said he was “ecstatic” when he heard Evanston was going to be celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Although NAISA was not involved in the discussion to make the change on this issue, it has been active in programming about John Evans’ role in the Sand Creek Massacre. Evans is both the man Evanston was named after and one of Northwestern’s founders.

The importance of changing the name of the holiday is in the awareness it raises around American Indian issues both specific to Evanston and nationwide, Gudino said.

“It’s not a huge game changer, but it will open different avenues that could really show some great participation throughout the city,” he said.

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