On Tuesday, the the Salt Lake City Council unanimously decided to observe Indigenous Peoples Day in Salt Lake City on the second Monday of October.
Moroni Benally is a co-founder and member of the executive board of the Utah League of Native American Voters.
Benally said the new holiday is especially meaningful in the context of history.
“Having Indigenous Peoples Day on this day specifically says a lot about indigenous people themselves, but also, trying to undo a sanitized history that has been a part of the American imagination for so long,” he said.
The adoption of Indigenous People’s Day won’t eliminate Columbus Day, which is a federal holiday. Instead, it will be a parallel holiday celebrated on the same day.
Minnesota, Vermont, Alaska and South Dakota are the only states in the country to adopt Indigenous Peoples Day or a similar holiday on a statewide level. The holiday is most commonly adopted on a city level. The first city to make the change was Berkeley, California in 1992. Salt Lake City is among more than 20 cities to adopt the holiday this year.
In Salt Lake City, Benally is happy to be celebrating the first Indigenous Peoples Day.
“I just went to lunch with my niece, and a woman that we don’t know, I don’t know her, she said, ‘Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!’ And it felt great,” he said. “It feels good to have this day, because not only does it acknowledge who we are - but politically, socially - it gives us a platform to actually talk about Native issues. We’re thrilled and excited. It’s good to know that we do have a lot of good people working for us and on our behalf.”