Joining a slowly building national movement, Emeryville was the latest city to forgo Columbus Day and observe “Indigenous Peoples Day”. Councilmember Jac Asher read a resolution declaring the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day in the city of Emeryville and “affirming the city’s commitment to promote the history and awareness of Emeryville’s American Indian and Indigenous community”. It was largely a ceremonial gesture as there were no planned festivities to commemorate the day this year.
The reading of the resolution can be viewed below at 53:15:
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Congress established the second Monday of October as a federal holiday honoring Columbus in 1934. Over the years, Native Americans have slowly begun winning more recognition around the day. The idea of Indigenous Peoples Day was first proposed in 1977 by a delegation of native nations. South Dakota renamed Columbus Day to Native American Day in 1990, and it has been an official state holiday ever since. Neighboring Berkeley in partnership with the International Indian Treaty Council established the first Indigenous Peoples Day in 1992 as a protest against Columbus Day.
Emeryville comprised a slight but vital portion of territory of the Huchiuns — one of about 50 politically autonomous village-communities, or tribelets, of Ohlone Indians according to The Emeryville Historical Society (Illustration Courtesy California Historical Society).
Much of Emeryville is of course built on Ohlone Land and most notably, The Bay Street Shopping Center. The largest Ohlone Shellmound, located at the mouth of Temescal Creek, was mostly demolished for a Dance Pavillion in the 1870’s and finished off around 1924 to make room for industrial development including a paint pigment plant.
The Ohlone Shellmounds were a massive man-made “Mound” of shells, tools, bowls, animal bones and human burials created over the course of 2,500 years that rose 60 feet above ground and was as wide as a football field. The mounds weren’t religious sites while in use but served as community cemeteries for the Ohlone population. The Ohlone abandoned the Shellmound approximately 1400 BC. More details of this subject are detailed in this 2014 post 2005 Shellmound documentary exposes the truth behind, and under, Bay Street Development.
The topic was the subject of a 2005 Documentary titled “Shellmound” by Andres Cediel:
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Bay Street is the target of annual Black Friday protests to spread awareness of the history of the land. Supporters of Columbus day argue that the holiday has evolved to celebrates centuries of cultural exchange between America and Europe and commemorates an iconic explorer and honors Italian-Americans, a group that has endured its own share of discrimination.
Further Reading & Resources:
A calendar of festivities celebrating IPD in Berkeley is listed on ipdpowwow.org
Urban renewal atop sacred past / Ohlone protest Emeryville project | SFGate.com
How Indigenous Peoples Day Came to Be | Time Magazine
Invisible Bay St.: Uncovering Emeryville’s History & Understanding Our Own | Yale.edu