Second District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce (right) and Long Beach City College Student Cheyenne Phoenix address a crowd of supporters of Indigenous People's Day. Photos: Jason Ruiz
The Long Beach City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to support a resolution that will recognize October 9, 2017 and every second Monday in October going forward as Indigenous People’s Day.
Second District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce authored the request, one that was co-sponsored by council members Suzie Price and Daryl Supernaw. It instructs the city attorney to draft a resolution, one that’s expected to be voted on again next week, that would recognize indigenous people each second Monday in October.
Although Columbus Day is a federally recognized holiday the city does not close down nor does the Long Beach Unified School District.
Standing outside City Hall with dozens of supporters who had formed a prayer circle, Pearce said that this day had been 200 years in the making before sharing that she had recently learned that Native American blood courses through her own veins.
“Today I think is a day that is really important to a lot of folks and a day, as I said outside has been long-coming,” Pearce said. “It’s a little too late, but today is the day that we get to celebrate our indigenous people who live in Long Beach and make Long Beach great and make the United States great.”
A crowd of supporters formed a prayer circle prior to the council meeting.
Cheyenne Phoenix, a student at Long Beach Community College and president of the school’s Native American association, said that as a descendent of Native Americans, it’s important for her to honor her roots, adding that it’s equally important for all residents to honor the people who originally called Long Beach home and the land that they were so connected to.
“As an occupant of the Tongva territory here I always want to honor the land and give that respect to them and acknowledge them and always keep them in my prayers,” Phoenix said.
Long Beach was once home to the Gabrielino and Tongva tribes with the land that houses Cal State Long Beach previously serving as a native village known as Puvungna. It’s also listed on the national registry of historic places.
Amy Eriksen, chair of the city’s human relations commission, said that by designating the second Monday of October for indigenous people the city will join others across the country and here at home—the Los Angeles City Council recently voted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day and the LA County Board of Supervisors cast a similar vote yesterday—in recognizing the struggles and contributions that Native Americans have made to the region.
“By observing Indigenous People’s Day, an appropriate focus is placed on the current and historical events related to the genocide, struggles and contributions of Native Americans,” Eriksen said.
The resolution is expected back before the council in the coming weeks when the council will formally approve the recognition of Indigenous People’s Day.