Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

February 16, 2016

Indigenous Peoples Day to be Considered by Flagstaff Council, Rally Planned

Indigenous Peoples’ Day to be Considered by Flagstaff Council February 23, 2016, Rally Planned

By Klee Benally

Censored News

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Flagstaff City Council is scheduled to discuss and vote on an Indigenous Peoples' Day proposal Tuesday, February 23 at 6:00pm. A rally to address injustices facing Indigenous Peoples in Flagstaff in support of the proposal will be held prior to the Council session at 5:00pm outside City Hall on the corner of Rt. 66 and Humphreys.

Council member Eva Putzova initially proposed declaring Indigenous Peoples’ Day in October of 2015 but withdrew her proposal after Indigenous community members called for meaningful action to address injustices faced by Native peoples. The proposal now includes a three step process with public hearings, reports, and a plan based on input from the hearings.

In a previous statement signed by community members and Northern Arizona University (NAU) professors, concern was expressed over celebrating Indigenous Peoples without addressing ongoing injustices. The statement called for an "Indigenous Peoples' Day designation in Flagstaff as a day of focused policy implementation to affect meaningful systemic changes with a diversity of Indigenous people at the core of decision making including clear measurable objectives, hard deadlines, and significant accountability. Celebration will be in order once these actions have been taken."

"Indigenous Peoples have long been a part of the community of Flagstaff yet our lives and cultures have faced serious mistreatment here, both historically and today.” stated Belinda Ayze, Flagstaff resident and student at NAU, "If we look at the official numbers of annual police arrests we see a serious issue of disproportionate racial profiling. Additionally, our relatives on the streets face death from exposure each winter. Our sacred mountain is being desecrated. Our lives and cultures are continually compromised through political decisions here in Flagstaff.” said Ayze.

Flagstaff Police Department's Annual Report from 2014 shows that out of 7,379 total arrests, 45% or 3,044 of them were Native American. According to 2010 Census there are 7,704 Indigenous People residing in Flagstaff.

In 2012, after the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission held hearings regarding violence and discrimination of Indigenous Peoples in Flagstaff which no Council people attended, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the City to improve race relations but critics charge that nothing has come out of it.

Last year nearly a dozen cities across the US including the entire state of Alaska renamed Columbus Day “Indigenous Peoples’ Day."

"Columbus Day is really a non-issue as Flagstaff currently doesn’t formally celebrate that holiday.” said Ayze, "We want Flagstaff to join with other communities throughout the country who are taking steps towards just and better relations. Council member Putzova's proposal for Indigenous Peoples’ Day is one that can move us in that direction. We can’t imagine why anyone would be opposed to a process thats promotes healthy dialogue towards justice and healing in this community.” said Ayze.

A partial list of cities that currently celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day on the second Monday of October:

California: Berkely, Sebastapool, Santa Cruz & San Fernando
Minnesota: Minneapolis, St. Paul & Grand Rapids
New York: Newstead & Akron
Traverse City, MI
Portland, OR
Seattle, WA
Albuquerque, NM
Durango, CO
Carrborro, NC
Belfast, ME

1. Arrests Graph from Flagstaff Police Department Annual Report 2014
2. Flyer for February 23 Rally
3. Photo of Indigenous Peoples' Day rally in Flagstaff at NAU October 2015

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