About 50 people gathered at Laguna Lake Park at sunrise on Monday morning to celebrate the inaugural Indigenous Peoples Day in San Luis Obispo.
Those gathered went around the circle and shared why the day was important. The group sang songs in the language of the Northern Chumash Tribe, and tribal chair Mona Olivas Tucker spoke. Fog rolled off the lake and birds chirped, though every so often the group had to stop as a plane flew into the airport.
In a statement, the Northern Chumash Tribe said the movement replaces “the honoring of an explorer who helped initiate the decimation of native tribes across the country” and called it a “tremendous step toward educating, in being inclusive of all the history of this area. It is about truth-telling.”
At last week’s City Council meeting, San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon declared that the city would celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day.
“We acknowledge the indigenous roots we have in San Luis Obispo and in California and the cultural and familial ties that connect us,” Harmon said, reading from the proclamation. “Indigenous Peoples Day shall reflect the ongoing struggles of indigenous people of this land and celebrate the thriving culture and value that indigenous people add to our city.”
Though Columbus Day became a federal holiday in 1937 and is celebrated by federal and most state government offices, the city of San Luis Obispo doesn’t recognize it as an official city holiday, meaning city offices are open.
Tribune reporter Nick Wilson and staff photographer David Middlecamp contributed to this story.