Politics

Los Angeles City Council considers Indigenous Peoples' Day

File: Mitch O'Farrell at a Los Angeles City Council meeting on Aug. 6, 2013.
File: Mitch O'Farrell at a Los Angeles City Council meeting on Aug. 6, 2013.
Mae Ryan/KPCC

The City of Los Angeles is exploring the creation of a holiday to celebrate indigenous people. A motion filed by City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell would highlight native culture in Los Angeles.

O'Farrell, who is part Native American, said that a day of observation would help address a difficult past.

"I think it'll have a healing effect on so much troubled history that the tribes have suffered. Especially in California, with the arrival of the missions and what that did to obliterate native cultures in Los Angeles and across the state," O'Farrell said.

Several United States cities have chosen to stop celebrating Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples' Day, but O'Farrell says he's not calling for a replacement of the holiday.

"It is not my intent nor desire to diminish any one culture. Quite the opposite," O'Farrell said. "But the historical record is pretty clear, that Christopher Columbus, who never set foot in the contiguous United States, had a very, very violent sort of history, and enslaved the Taínos, who were the original inhabitants of present-day Dominican Republican and Haiti, and that population was basically annihilated through slavery and worse. So Christopher Columbus represents for many, many people across the United States not someone to be celebrated."

Critics say Columbus is undeserving of the recognition.

O'Farrell said that he was not looking to create a new paid holiday for city employees, but that the city administrative officer would report back on a mostly neutral cost plan with no paid holiday as well as what it would look like if the day was a paid holiday.

O'Farrell said that he started thinking about Indigenous Peoples' Day last year.

"I asked myself last year, 'if not me, who,' in terms of who's going to make the move for Indigenous Peoples' Day, because I do think it's time — and 'if not now, when,'" O'Farrell said.

The holiday would draw attention to the Tongva people, who were the original inhabitants of the L.A. area and lived along the L.A. River, as well as relating to the international culture of L.A. with indigenous populations who've resettled to the area from around the world, O'Farrell said.

A City Council committee unanimously voted to receive a report back on Indigenous People Day within 60 days.

Indigenous Peoples' Day motion