The United States has celebrated the annual observance Columbus Day every October since 1937. Then-President Roosevelt thought it would be a nice way to recognize the achievements of explorer Christopher Columbus along with his Italian heritage. But since the ’70s, there has been a growing movement to reduce the attention on Columbus and put more focus on Native Americans. Battle Creek is joining that movement today with its first annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The City Commission put its unanimous support behind the resolution. From here on out in the city, the 2nd Monday in October is no longer referenced as it was before. It is now Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

City Commissioner Kate Flores was out front on the idea which puts renewed attention on the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi. The tribe is one of 12 which is federally recognized in Michigan. Its offices are at the Pine Creek Reservation just outside Athens. With about 1,400 members, it is larger by the numbers than the town of Athens. For many people,  the tribe’s successful Firekeepers Casino here in Calhoun County is what brings it a lot of notoriety. The Battle Creek City Commission is taking the stance that the contributions of immigrants are important. But as that view is connected to the former Columbus Day observance, the recognition of indigenous people should not take a back seat. The commission acknowledged that, while recognizing the valuable contributions of immigrants is important, related to the view of Columbus Day, it should not be at the expense of recognizing the experiences of the Indigenous people here.

Commissioner Flores commented during the recent meeting where the observance was approved, “Please, as a community, let’s celebrate, let’s learn, let’s connect with our Tribal neighbors and members here in our community.” Commissioner Flores and city staff consulted with tribal leaders over the past year leading up to the creation of the resolution in Battle Creek. Tribal Council Chairperson Jamie Stuck offered her thanks to the commission by telephone during its virtual meeting saying, “On behalf of the sovereign Nation of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, I want to commend the city’s approval to observe Indigenous Peoples Day honoring our ancestors, traditions, culture, values, and history.” Both Stuck and Tribal Council Vice Chairperson Dorie Rios called in to Tuesday’s commission meeting, to comment on the resolution.   In recognition of the new observance, the tribe’s offices are closed today.

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