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Chief Red Wing Day to replace Columbus Day

Red Wing will honor its namesake and Native American heritage on the day federally dedicated to Christopher Columbus, the Red Wing City Council voted Monday.

The council agreed — with four members voting yes, two voting present and one absent — to re-designate Columbus Day in the city as Chief Red Wing Day and to promote more education about the area’s earliest residents.

Council President Lisa Bayley noted the city of Red Wing doesn’t close on Columbus Day — the second Monday in October each year — and only some members of one union have the day off.

The city also doesn’t have the authority to change or eliminate a federal holiday, and the move would be symbolic. Still, she said it is an important move.

“There are a lot of things we do that are symbolic,” Bayley said. “And we do it because symbols matter.”

The Prairie Island Indian Community Tribal Council submitted a letter Monday supporting the effort to change the name of Columbus Day in the city, suggesting Chief Red Wing Day over other considerations such as First Peoples Day.

“A ‘Chief Red Wing Day’ holiday would not only honor and recognize the city’s namesake, Hupahu Duta, but it could be a day to celebrate and educate people about the Dakota who were indigenous to this area, and the Mdewakanton Dakota of Prairie Island who continue to live here today,” the tribe wrote.

The Human Rights Commission has been discussing the Columbus Day issue since January 2012. The council and commission held a workshop in February of this year, and City Council and Tribal Council members talked in March about the potential re-naming.

Different approaches

Council members offered differing opinions Monday on how the change should be implemented.

Council member Dean Hove made a motion to call the city’s celebration Chief Red Wing Day but designate it as a parallel holiday to Columbus Day, similar to a move the city of Minneapolis made Friday. Council member Ralph Rauterkus seconded the motion, but later withdrew his second after more discussion, including from Human Rights Commission member Scott Bender.

The city of Minneapolis voted Friday to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day on Columbus Day. Both holidays will be recognized.

Bender said he was disappointed with Minneapolis’ decision not to fully re-designate the day and said he felt that if Red Wing did the same, it would not reflect the message and goal of the resolution.

“I don’t see any reason to celebrate Columbus,” Bender said, and asked the council to stick with re-naming the day to better recognize local history and culture.

After the parallel holiday motion died for lack of a second, Rauterkus moved to re-designate the day in Red Wing, saying he agreed it was more appropriate.

Council member Mike Schultz took issue with the vote altogether, saying the council should stand by a general plan not to take up federal and state issues.

Bayley argued that when those issues directly affect the city and its residents, they should be considered, and said this was one of those times.

“It will show community members, people who live here, that they matter, that names matter, that words matter,” she said of the Columbus Day change.

Schultz voted present, as did Hove on the final motion to re-name the day. Council member Peggy Rehder was absent from Monday’s meeting, representing the city at a nuclear waste conference in Washington, D.C.

Council members did agree there should be recognition and celebration honoring the Native American people of the area. Hove encouraged the school district to incorporate more education on the issue, and Bayley asked the Human Rights Commission to come back with suggestions about the education piece of the change.

Columbus Day started as a federal holiday in 1937. Other states, such as South Dakota, have changed the name locally to recognize Native Americans or others rather than the explorer.

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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