Nome officially recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Nome’s November City Council meeting agenda. (Photo: Emily Russell/KNOM)
Nome’s November City Council meeting agenda. (Photo: Emily Russell/KNOM)

Amidst the season’s second blizzard that left schools and businesses closed, Nome’s city council hunkered down for their monthly meeting on Monday. And it’s a good thing they didn’t give into the weather and cancel, because on the agenda was a resolution to formerly change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

School Board President Barb Amarok was quick to take the podium during the first round of citizens comments to voice her support for the resolution.

“I think it would promote the learning of inclusive history and authentic history by students,” Amarok explained.

Amarok played a key role in the schools’ effort to become the second district, behind Fairbanks, to recognize the holiday. In front of the city council, she described that what she was taught when she was in school in the ’50s and ’60s didn’t quite portray the nation’s history accurately.

“We learned that we were supposed to honor Christopher Columbus, who 500 years discovered North America, but as an adult, some indigenous people have been on this continent for 11,000 and 500 years.”

Before voting on the issue, council member Jerald Brown, who works for Bering Straits Native Corporation, offered his comments. Bering Straits does not recognize Columbus Day, and he’s often asked “why not?”

“The standard response that I give is why would a Native corp recognize honor the invasion of the North American continent by Europeans? That’s really how I’ve come to see it, “Brown said, adding, “it just goes against my grain.”

And it seemed to go against the grain of the rest of the council. The resolution passed with no objection.

The city of Nome will now join the state and other cities including Anchorage, Portland, Oregon, and Albuquerque, New Mexico in setting aside the second Monday of October to honor the true founders and settlers of our nation.

Emily Russell is the voice of Alaska morning news as Alaska Public Media’s Morning News Host and Producer.

Originally from the Adirondacks in upstate New York, Emily moved to Alaska in 2012. She skied her way through three winters in Fairbanks, earning her Master’s degree in Northern Studies from UAF.

Emily’s career in radio started in Nome in 2015, reporting for KNOM on everything from subsistence whale harvests to housing shortages in Native villages. She then worked for KCAW in Sitka, finally seeing what all the fuss with Southeast, Alaska was all about.

Back on the road system, Emily is looking forward to driving her Subaru around the region to hike, hunt, fish and pick as many berries as possible. When she’s not talking into the mic in the morning, Emily can be found reporting from the peaks above Anchorage to the rivers around Southcentral.

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