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Seattle City Council replaces Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The resolution honours the contributions and culture of Native Americans and indigenous peoples

Seattle's city council has passed a resolution to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day on the same day as the federally recognized holiday, Columbus Day.<br />

The Seattle City Council has voted to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the same day as the federally recognized holiday, Columbus Day.

The resolution that passed unanimously Monday honours the contributions and culture of Native Americans and the indigenous community in Seattle. Indigenous Peoples’ Day will be celebrated on the second Monday in October.

Tribal members and other supporters say the move recognizes the rich history of people who have inhabited the area for centuries.

“This action will allow us to bring into current present day our valuable and rich history, and it’s there for future generations to learn,” said Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation on the Olympic Peninsula, who is also president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.

“Nobody discovered Seattle, Washington,” she said to a round of applause.

Several Italian-Americans and others objected to the change, saying Indigenous Peoples’ Day honours one group while disregarding the Italian heritage of others.

Columbus Day is a federal holiday that commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus, who was Italian, in the Americas on Oct. 12, 1492. It’s not a legal state holiday in Washington.

We don’t argue with the idea of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. We do have a big problem of it coming at the expense of what essentially is Italian Heritage Day,” said Ralph Fascitelli, an Italian-American who lives in Seattle, speaking outside the meeting.

“This is a big insult to those of us of Italian heritage. We feel disrespected,” Fascitelli said. He added, “America wouldn’t be America without Christopher Columbus.”

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is expected to sign the resolution Oct. 13, his spokesman Jason Kelly said.

Follows trend in other cities and states

Other cities and states The Bellingham City Council also is concerned that Columbus Day offends some Native Americans. It will consider an ordinance Oct. 13 to recognize the second Monday in October as Coast Salish Day.

The Seattle School Board decided last week to have its schools observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the same day as Columbus Day. Earlier this year, Minneapolis also decided to designate that day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. South Dakota, meanwhile, celebrates Native American Day.

Seattle council member Bruce Harrell said he understood the concerns from people in the Italian-American community, but he said, “I make no excuses for this legislation.” He said he co-sponsored the resolution because he believes the city won’t be successful in its social programs and outreach until “we fully recognize the evils of our past.”

Council member Nick Licata, who is Italian-American, said he didn’t see the legislation as taking something away, but rather allowing everyone to celebrate a new day where everyone’s strength is recognized.


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26-year-old indigenous woman brings world leaders to tears at UN Climate Summit

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner addresses the opening of the Climate Summit in New York.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner addresses the opening of the Climate Summit in New York. Photo: Reuters

The UN Climate Summit has been graced by the likes of actor Leonardi DiCaprio and US President Barack Obama, but the haunting words of a young mother from a tiny Pacific Island nation have made the most lasting impression.

Spoken-word poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, 26, from the Marshall Islands, was just one of four people chosen from 544 nominees to address the opening of the UN Climate Summit in New York.

In front of an audience of 120 state dignitaries, Jetnil-Kijiner performed a poem she wrote for her seven-month-old daughter, in which she promises to protect the child from the threat of climate change, which she says world leaders are ignoring.

In her impassioned performance, Jetnil-Kijner used the metaphor of a “lagoon that will devour you” to depict the sea levels that are threatening to swallow her island home.

“We deserved to do more than just survive,” she told the audience, “We deserve to thrive.”

Aware that the capacity for action was concentrated in the hands of those in her audience, she admonished “those hidden behind platinum titles who like to pretend we don’t exist” and the “backwater bullying of business with broken morals”.

“No one is drowning, baby,” she assures her daughter, “no one’s moving, no one’s losing their homeland.

“We won’t let you down. You’ll see.”

The Marshall Islands is a tiny Pacific nation comprising low-lying coral atolls and is at the forefront of climate change.

In recent years, the nation has grappled with the dual humanitarian threat of severe droughts and rising seas, and is ranked as the nation most endangered due to flooding and from climate change.

On her blog, Jetnil-Kijiner says her poetry aims to raise awareness about the ”issues and threats faced by my people”.

She is also a co-founder of an environmental NGO called Jo-JiKuM, which educates the youth of the Marshall Islands about issues related to environmentalism and climate change.

The performance drew a standing ovation and, according to the United Nations official Twitter account, left few dry eyes among those in the audience.

What remains to be seen, however, is whether these tears will be converted to action.



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Voices from the People’s Climate March: Indigenous Groups Lead Historic 400,000-Strong NYC Protest

People's Climate March.

Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

As many as 400,000 people turned out in New York City on Sunday for the People’s Climate March, the largest environmental protest in history. With a turnout far exceeding expectations, the streets of midtown Manhattan were filled with environmentalists, politicians, musicians, students, farmers, celebrities, nurses and labor activists — all united in their demand for urgent action on climate change. Organizers arranged the People’s Climate March into different contingents reflecting the movement’s diversity, with indigenous groups in the lead.

See the full story on Democracy Now!

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First World Conference on Indigenous Peoples opens at UN headquarters

21 September 2014 – The week of high-level events that marks the opening of the United Nations General Assembly’s annual general debate kicks off today with the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP).

Convened as a high-level plenary meeting of the Assembly, the two-day World Conference is expected to draw over a thousand indigenous and non-indigenous delegates who will have the opportunity to share perspectives and best practices on the realization of their rights, including pursuing the objectives of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the General Assembly in 2007.

Indigenous peoples represent remarkable diversity – more than 5,000 distinct groups in some 90 countries, making up more than 5 per cent of the world’s population, some 370 million people. These peoples continue to self-identify as distinct peoples with strong links to traditional territories with their own social, economic and political systems as well as unique languages, cultures and beliefs.

The World Conference is expected to result in a concise, action-oriented outcome document on the implementation the rights of indigenous peoples and the promotion of the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, prepared by the President of the General Assembly on the basis of inclusive and open consultations with Member States and indigenous peoples.

Opening remarks at the Conference are expected to be delivered by General Assembly President Sam Kutesa, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, among others.

The opening plenary will also include an opening ceremony involving indigenous peoples and the adoption of the World Conference outcome document.

The meetings will be co-chaired by indigenous representatives from all regions: Pacific, African and Asian, as well as Western and Eastern European, and Latin American and the Caribbean.


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People’s Climate March

Join us on September 21, 2014 for the largest climate march in history.

Central Park, New York City

6:30 am   Sunrise Ceremony

8 am         Light Breakfst, Coffee & Tea

9 am         Convergence – invocation, briefing, protocol, preparing to join the People’s Climate March

10:30 am  Indigenous bloc departs from Heckscher Lawns Picinic area for Columbus Cirlce

11:30 am    People’s Climate March steps off

For more information:


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Indigenous Peoples and the Post 2015 Development Agenda: Toward Effective Participation

August 28 •11:45-1pm •

Room 2005, 2nd Floor, North Lawn Building

This workshop will highlight Indigenous Peoples participation within the post-2015 Development and the Sustainable Development Agenda, as well as recommend ways forward.

Moderator and Panelists: Susan Alzner, Officer in Charge, NGLS; Galina Angarova, Tebtebba Foundation; Ghazali Ohorella, Tribal Link Foundation; Andrea Carmen, International Indian Treaty Council

Sponsored by Tribal Link Foundation; International Indian Treaty Council; Tebtebba Foundation; United Confederation of Taino People;  NGO Committee on the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

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65th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference

The 65th UN DPI/NGO Conference is titled ’2015 and Beyond: Our Action Agenda,’ is being organized by the UN Department of Public Information and the NGO/DPI Executive Committee, and will focus on the theme of ‘The role of civil society in the post 2015 development agenda’. The event seeks to provide an opportunity for civil society networks and activists to mobilize messaging, advocacy strategies, partnerships and accountability frameworks in the lead up to the start of the intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda. The outcome of the conference will be a declaration that will be shared with the UN system, the UN Member States, the global civil society and other stakeholders.

dates: 27-29 August 2014

venue: UN Headquarters

location: New York City, US

contact:DPI/NGO Relations

phone:+1 212 963 7234



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