In a letter of support for the proclamation, Native American advocate Donita Fry said the recognition of Indigenous Peoples' Day helps highlight American history.
"Native American history is American history and should be highlighted in a very intentional way to acknowledge the daily contributions of our Indigenous leaders and ancestors – everything that we do as a nation is on ceded land from Native tribes," wrote Fry, who is the Portland Youth and Elders Council Coordinator for the NAYA Family Center.
Many other places already recognize the contributions of Native Americans on Oct. 12. Berkeley, Calif., was the first city to observe Indigenous Peoples' Day in 1992. Hawaii celebrates the day as Discoverers' Day, honoring Polynesians who first inhabited the islands, and South Dakota celebrates Oct. 12 as Native American Day. Seattle adopted Indigenous Peoples' Day in 2014; Portland and Multnomah County adopted it earlier this year.
While Oct. 12 is the federal Columbus Day holiday, and is a state holiday in many parts of the country, Oregon never adopted the holiday in its calendar. Columbus Day was originally promoted by Italian Americans seeking to combat discrimination and violence aimed at immigrants from Italy.
But in her letter to the Metro Council, Fry said Columbus' name shouldn't be held in a positive light.
"This is about taking a stand against racism and discrimination," she wrote. "Christopher Columbus played such a pivotal role in the worst genocide humankind has ever known – more Native American lives were lost post contact than were lost in the Jewish Holocaust."
At the Oct. 8 council meeting, Metro Council President Tom Hughes said the proclamation recognizes the relationship Metro has with the Native American community, which, he said, is a very important community in the greater Portland metropolitan area.
"Our actions match our rhetoric," Hughes said. "We at Metro strive to honor the Native American community by showing up in your community and caring about what you care about."