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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Columbus Day confusion at City Hall ends with rescinded proclamation

Spokane Mayor David Condon (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Confusion apparently still reigns at Spokane City Hall about the name of Monday’s federal holiday.

In August, the Spokane City Council voted to rename Columbus Day for city purposes to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The decision was praised by local tribal members who said the celebration of the explorer was inappropriate, given the explorer has been blamed for introducing disease and enslaving native people.

But on Thursday, City Council members received a draft proclamation praising Columbus from the mayor’s office, which said Friday it was delivered in error.

A draft version of the proclamation read, “in 1492, Christopher Columbus set sail across the Atlantic Ocean on a historic journey, encountering a New World and setting into motion events that birth a Nation. His journey opened the door for generation of immigrants to follow his path across the ocean in pursuit of the promise of America.” The draft proclamation later acknowledged the “suffering, disease and devastation” that Native Americans were subjected to as a result of Columbus’ voyages.

City Council President Ben Stuckart said council members received the hand-delivered proclamation Thursday afternoon from Condon’s office, prompting concerns it defied an August resolution renaming the holiday “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” Stuckart took his concerns to the administration and some revisions were made before the mayor’s office removed the proclamation entirely from Monday night’s agenda.

“They said it never should have been recommended,” Stuckart said Friday.

Brian Coddington, a spokesman for Condon, confirmed the resolution was submitted to the City Council in error.

“It’s been withdrawn,” Coddington said. “There was just confusion over the two different requests.”

The other request was a proclamation naming Oct. 1 Italian-American Heritage Day, a designation proposed by City Councilwoman Amber Waldref to appease concerns among those Spokane residents with Italian heritage who felt jilted by the Columbus Day name change. That proclamation was read into the record at the council’s meeting Monday night, and presented to a contingent visiting Spokane from it’s newest sister city: Cagli, Italy.

Stuckart, who initially bristled at the Columbus Day draft proclamation, said the issue had been resolved and he was looking forward to a celebration on the City Hall plaza Monday that will end at Riverfront Park’s Canada Island. The Spokane Tribe of Indians was recently given the opportunity to rename the island and share in planning its design as part of Riverfront Park’s taxpayer-supported redesign.