Johnson County joins Iowa City in recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors proclaimed Oct. 12 to be Indigenous Peoples’ Day following Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague’s proclamation earlier this week


Grace Smith

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors holds an online formal meeting on Oct. 8, 2020.

Clinton Garlock, News Reporter

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors joined the City of Iowa City in proclaiming Oct. 12 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day after Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague signed a similar proclamation earlier this week.

The second Monday of October — which is federally recognized as Columbus Day — has been proclaimed as Indigenous People’s Day in Johnson County since at least 2017.

Specifically in Iowa, the governor is authorized and requested by law to issue an annual proclamation to observe Columbus Day on Oct.12. The state proclamation serves “to urge that services and exercises be had in churches, halls and other suitable places expressive of the public sentiment,” but it is not a mandate.

Christopher Columbus was once revered as the man who discovered America, but as more institutions recognize that Columbus is responsible for the genocide of many Native Americans, Columbus Day is not uniformly observed throughout the country.

Many states and local communities across the U.S. observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day to celebrate the people who lived on the North American continent before it was colonized by European imperialists.

Johnson County’s proclamation specifically reaffirms the country’s 2010 endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which recognizes that “‘indigenous people have suffered from historic injustices as a result of… their colonization and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources.”

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The Johnson County proclamation also said that it recognizes “the genocide [of indigenous peoples] and opposes the systemic racism practiced toward indigenous peoples in the United States, which perpetuates high rates of poverty and incomes inequality, exacerbates disproportionate negative health and education outcomes, and weakens social stability.”

Johnson County Supervisor Lisa Green-Douglass expressed her satisfaction with the proclamation, and said it brings a more appropriate honor to the founding of America than what she had when she was growing up.

“[Christopher Columbus]… he’s not a great hero, and I’m glad that it’s finally being talked about,” said Green-Douglass.

The proclamation ends by recognizing the value indigenous people bring to the Johnson County community and the contributions they have made to the culture and character of the country.

The City of Iowa City is built atop land that was once home to at least four Native American tribes according to Native Land Digital, a Canadian non-profit that hosts an indigenous land map.

The only Native American reservation in the state of Iowa is for the Meskwaki Nation of the Sac and Fox tribe. According to the U.S. Census, 1.2 percent of Johnson County residents identify as American Indian or Native Alaskan.

“We, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors…urge all residents to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of indigenous peoples and to celebrate the thriving culture and value that indigenous peoples founded on this land long before the creation of this state and the United States of America,” reads the proclamation.

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