Red Wing Considering Renaming Columbus Day to First Peoples Day

Posted at: 01/31/2014 3:26 PM

Photo: Photo: MGN Online

(KSTP) - Should Christopher Columbus be celebrated?

That will be the topic of conversation at an upcoming meeting in Red Wing.

The Red Wing City Council and Human Rights Commission will meet Monday for a joint workshop. Among the agenda items is a resolution to rename Columbus Day to First Peoples Day.

The proposal, brought forward by the Human Rights Commission, aims to celebrate the city’s "First Peoples" by honoring their contributions to the "continued development and success in creating a tolerant and accepting whole community of Red Wing citizens."

"The Native Americans had an amazing civilization, and the more we find out about it the more we realize we don't know," Commissioner Dorothy Eckblad said. Eckblad said the commission has been working on getting traction for this resolution for several years.

"Mostly people are paying no attention," Eckblad said. "There are a lot of people who don’t know it's being talked about, but I haven’t heard any opposition from people who find out about it."

The resolution cites numerous reasons for the proposed change, including that Columbus never set foot in North America and made no real contributions to the city of Red Wing, according to the commission.

The commission also takes issue with Columbus' reported abuse of the natives, a behavior that the commission says is "completely unacceptable by our modern standards for basic human rights."

"There are a lot of reasons why Columbus shouldn’t be honored with a day and that the original people in this area should be honored," Eckblad said. "The things [Columbus] did weren’t nice; he enslaved people, was cruel and never did get to the mainland."

The commission wants to instead recognize the history and cultural traditions of the Red Wing area's First Peoples, such as their development of a trade network and the settlement of several towns in the area.

Officially, the proposal wouldn’t affect anything other than the name of the city’s observance, but the commission is also asking to develop programs and discussions to enhance the understanding of the First Peoples. Eckblad said they aren’t considering changing the date because a lot of people already have it built into their work or school schedules.

The workshop takes place at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 3. Eckblad said Monday’s meeting will focus on if the Red Wing City Council is interested in moving ahead with the resolution.