Hundreds of people gathered Monday evening for a potluck and powwow celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day in Spokane, three years after the City Council voted to rename Columbus Day.
The gathering was both a celebration of Native American culture and a reminder that the Italian explorer took part in many atrocities against indigenous people, including enslavement and genocide.
“It’s important for us to remember that Christopher Columbus didn’t discover this,” said Shedaezha Hodge, a member of the Diné, or Navajo Nation. “We were already here.”
Attendees on Monday dined on fry bread, chili and other dishes before some gathered to drum, sing and dance in traditional attire.
Hodge, whose husband and children are members of the Spokane Tribe, said her whole family dances as a way to pass along Native traditions to the next generation.
“We’re trying to pass down our traditions through powwow celebration,” she said.
The gathering was held at the Warehouse sports center on North Hamilton Street, where the same event was held last year. Before that, people marked the occasion at the Spokane Tribal Gathering Place, a plaza beside City Hall overlooking the Spokane River.
While Columbus Day remains a federal holiday, a number of cities have instead declared it Indigenous Peoples Day, drawing pushback from some Italian American groups.
The Spokane City Council voted to make the change in August 2016. Washington, D.C., became the latest city to do so last week.
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