Austin City Council replaces Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day


Highlights

The city of Austin will no longer celebrate Columbus Day, replacing the holiday with Indigenous Peoples Day.

The Austin City Council voted to remove the holiday from city calendars.

The council also voted to condemn monuments and memorials to the Confederacy.

Columbus Day is no more in the corridors of City Hall.

The Austin City Council on Thursday voted to replace the holiday with Indigenous Peoples Day, a holiday that celebrates Native Americans.

Columbus Day is a federal holiday, so it has not been eradicated, but interim City Manager Elaine Hart did say city calendars will no longer refer to the holiday named for Christopher Columbus.

The vote was 9-1-1, with Council Member Ellen Troxclair against and Council Member Alison Alter abstaining.

“We have a saying that Columbus didn’t discover America, he was lost,” Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria said.

Austin follows other U.S. cities — including Seattle; Denver; Albuquerque, N.M.; and, most recently, Los Angeles — in renaming the holiday observed on the second Monday of October.

The Austin school district gives students the day off on Columbus Day. However, staff members are required to go to work, and the district’s official calendar does not list the holiday by name. Other holidays such as Labor Day and Memorial Day are referred to by name, according to the district’s 2017-18 school year calendar.

The council also voted Thursday to condemn the display of monuments and memorials to the Confederacy. That resolution directs the city staff to identify all Confederate monuments in Austin and research how they might be removed. It was approved without discussion as part of the council’s consent agenda. Troxclair also voted against that item.

RELATED: After Charlottesville, Austin’s Confederate monuments get a second look

An effort spearheaded by Council Member Ann Kitchen is already underway to rename Robert E. Lee Road, a street alongside Zilker Park honoring the Confederate general. Kitchen has proposed naming the road after Azie Taylor Morton, the only African-American ever to be U.S. treasurer.

The University of Texas removed statues of Confederate figures from the campus’ Main Mall in August. The university removed a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from the mall in 2015.

The Capitol grounds have several monuments to and statues of Confederate figures and soldiers, and some lawmakers have called for removing a plaque incorrectly describing the causes of the Civil War. Decisions on those monuments rest with the state.

Before the Columbus Day vote, Troxclair attempted to change the language of the resolution to celebrate both Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day on the same day. However, her amendment, which Alter supported, failed.

VIDEO: Activist Tane Ward with Equilibrio Norte talks about the council’s vote

Council Member Greg Casar then offered an amendment that the city would celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day rather than Columbus Day. It was approved.

“I think Austin is following suit with the rest of the country,” activist Tane Ward from the organization Equilibrio Norte said after the vote. “This is a very popular and easy thing to do, changing the names of things. However, it doesn’t change the material conditions of inequality that exist in this state.”

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How is your City Council member voting on the issues that matter most to you? Check out Thursday’s votes and look up previous decisions at statesman.com/votetracker.

COUNCIL ACTION

In other news Thursday, the Austin City Council:

• Revised the city’s campaign finance ordinance. Now City Council candidates can raise money only during the 12 months leading up to election day. A judge in 2016 struck down the city’s previous limit allowing campaign fundraising only during the six months before election day.

• Allowed out-of-state drivers to apply for chauffeur’s permits. The move will make it easier for ride-hailing firm RideAustin, which uses the fingerprint-based background checks tied to the city’s chauffeur permit process, to recruit college students and other newcomers with out-of-state licenses to become drivers for hire.



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