Yelps of celebration and drums reverberated through the Los Angeles City Council Chamber on Wednesday, Aug. 30, after the city council voted to replace Columbus Day as a city holiday with Indigenous Peoples Day.
The motion passed 14-1, the lone dissenting vote by Council Member Joe Buscaino.
No one was happier than Rudy Ortega Jr., tribal president of the Fernandeño Tataviam Mission Band of Mission Indians in the city of San Fernando. Ortega along with many other tribal members, organizations and supporters have lobbied hard to have Indigenous Peoples Day replace Columbus Day. He was in the Los Angeles City Hall Wednesday when it passed.
“It’s a great day to be an indigenous person,” Ortega said. “From both North and South America, this is remarkable, at last that we pay respect and honor to the first people of this continent. Evidence of the wide support Mayan, Aztec and Plains Indians danced following the vote.
“I attribute to the vote to everyone who has a connection to all the cultures, including both the L.A. County and City Native American commissions of which Ortega has been active, we also had the support of people from the Italian American community. Many people understand the truth, and the need for our correcting history.”
In approving the switch on Wednesday, Aug. 30, the council also rejected a late push by Buscaino, who had wanted to amend the through an amending motion to have Indigenous Peoples Day take place on Aug. 9 and a second new holiday celebrating the diverse cultures of Los Angeles replace Columbus Day on the second Monday of October.
After he motion passed many community members went out to the forecourt of the council, were there were more more speeches, some of them in Spanish. Farrell was among those who spoke, calling it “a victory for all indigenous people.”
Ortega said there is much work ahead and their next large effort will be to remove the Fr. Serra statue that sits in a public park in front of the San Fernando Mission. Ortega’s ancestors were placed in forced labor to build the San Fernando Mission as many native people were to build California’s missions. Statewide there will be an effort by Native people to remove the statues of Fr. Serra wherever he appears in public spaces across the state.