Bloomington’s Office of the Mayor officially proclaimed Oct. 8, 2018 to be Indigenous Peoples Day, making it the first city in Indiana to recognize the holiday.
The celebration began at 5:30 p.m. Monday in Dunn Meadow. Native American students and community members lead attendees to the Monroe County Courthouse where mayoral staff read the proclamation aloud. Caleb King, founder of IU’s Native American Student Association and event organizer, read a prepared speech and then invited other members of the community to speak.
“It was amazing,” King said. “Just to know that our representatives are supporting us and hearing our voices is very impactful.”
Yael Ksander, the communications director of the mayor’s office, said the office chose to issue the proclamation to celebrate indigenous peoples and to remember injustices committed against them.
“We want to honor and remember that and stand against the oppression that has occurred in American history with regards to our native populations,” Ksander said.
While the mayor’s office will recognize Indigenous Peoples Day, Ksander said the Bloomington city council has not issued an ordinance or a resolution proclaiming it. The City of Bloomington will not recognize Indigenous Peoples Day as an official holiday until the council votes on the matter. Only 57 cities and four states officially recognized the holiday in 2017, according to Times Magazine.
“This is a step,” Ksander said. “If it is proposed to city council that this be changed for next year, that is something council would have to take up.”
King, a sophomore studying neuroscience, said he, Keisha Beyal, Gaby Anderson, Jordan Begay and Lydia Curliss founded the Native American Student Association to strengthen the voice of the Native community on campus and increase resources for both undergraduate and graduate students.
King said the group had a presentation last year on Columbus Day explaining how the holiday promoted the erasure of the Native American experience and history.
“I felt that we need to do something that was more than a lesson,” King said.
King said he began planning a march two and half weeks ago for Bloomington to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day. He approached the city to support the march and received an email Friday from the mayor’s office saying the office would officially recognize the holiday.
“I actually just about started crying,” King said.
Laura Martinez is an IU alumna and a citizen of the Lipan Apache Tribe of what is currently Texas. She said she petitioned the University to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day when she was a student. IU has not officially recognized Indigenous Peoples Day.
“It’s really meaningful to me to see this finally happen here in Bloomington, which I consider my hometown now,” Martinez said. She said it was important to her to see students fighting for representation at IU as she did.
Nicky Belle, the director of the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center, said he would love to see IU recognize Indigenous Peoples Day. He said the center wants to work with students and others centers like it to have the holiday recognized at a state level.
“We’re starting here, but we’re not stopping here,” Belle said.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Nicky Belle's name. The IDS regrets this error.