PINETOP-LAKESIDE — With special dignitaries in attendance at the Oct. 3 council meeting, Mayor Stephanie Irwin read the official proclamation declaring the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Dylan Baca, a Blue Ridge High School student who is on the Governor’s Youth Commission, serving as chairman of both the Arizona Human Trafficking Prevention Committee and the Indigenous People’s Day Committee, was the catalyst for the proclamation. Several months ago Baca noticed the momentum growing across the country to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Baca worked closely with with Town Manager Keith Johnson on the crafting of the decree.
Addressing the council following the reading of the proclamation, Baca thanked the council, and stated that he is a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe and through his grandfather is also Navajo.
“We would like to see Indigenous Peoples’ Day pass, because we believe Native Americans should be represented with more visibility,” said Baca. “Though Indigenous Populations only make up about 2% of the United States population, the contributions from Native Americans has been consequential to the growth of the United States. Indigenous People have contributed and have shared with subsequent settlers their traditional ecological knowledge of the land and its resources and have continued to play a vital role in the development of our communities. Passing this holiday will help promote pride in the contributions of Native Americans to the state of Arizona, and our global community.”
Following Baca, his mother, Navajo Co. District V Supervisor Dawnafe Whitesinger, a White Mountain Apache, and the first woman chairperson of the Navajo County Board of Supervisors, proudly acknowledged her son’s efforts in bringing attention to the history of their ancestors. She also thanked Johnson for the wording in the proclamation which acknowledged the vital contributions of indigenous communities and the vital relationship between the White Mountain Apache Tribe and the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside.
Arizona Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai, (D), Dist. 7, who was responsible for the 2018 legislation declaring June 2 as Native American Day, was on hand to acknowledge the value of the proclamation. Peshlakai is a member of the Navajo Nation and a U.S. Army veteran who served in the Gulf War.
“This is the dawning of a new day for the town, community and state,” said Peshlakai. “I am proud of Dylan, his family and clan.”
Peshlakai said it took five years for her to get the first Native American Day passed in 2018. She said that many felt a day in June in the hottest state was not a fitting day, but she conceded to that day.
“Dylan was an observant young man who took it on himself to tip the spear, advocating righting the wrong to get concession of that holiday,” said Peshlakai. “That is how democracy should work.”
“I am happy with the community of Pinetop-Lakeside for embracing his leadership. I hope the rest of nation takes the lead to right the wrongs. I will be introducing another bill amending the June 2 day to Columbus Day, replacing it, and renaming it.”
Arizona Rep. Arlando Teller, (D), Dist. 7 was also present for the proclamation. Teller is Navajo and his grandfather was a Navajo Code Talker.
“I am honored to be here,” said Teller, “especially to witness a young leader and his effort in shining a light in this movement.”
“On or off tribe when we cooperate, collaborate and communicate, you are implementing your leadership,” he said of Baca.
Columbus Day, October 12, was first declared a federal holiday by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934. Though it had been celebrated for many years, it was created to remember Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the Americas on October 12, 1492. In 1971 the Uniform Monday Holiday Act Congress amended the federal holiday provisions code to celebrate certain holidays on Mondays. Columbus Day is one of those holidays which made it fall on the second Monday of October. This year October 14 is the day that it is celebrated.
According to an Oct. 9 General AP News report, Minnesota, Vermont, Florida, Hawaii, Alaska, New Mexico, South Dakota and Wisconsin have moved away from observing Columbus Day. Columbus Day is still a federal holiday.