This evening the Portland City Council voted unanimously to rename the second Monday of October – “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” – replacing the traditional name of “Columbus Day.” The name change was the proposal of Councilor Pious Ali; a man of few words, but well chosen words.
The decision followed a lengthy public hearing during which both sides of the issue testified in compelling fashion. Deguhn Lobutua told the city council that “when there are natural disasters, the earth is crying out.” State Representative Rachel Talbott said that a “full replacement of Columbus Day” is required. “Those monuments have come down fully, not in pieces. Why would we want to celebrate a holiday that causes so many so much pain,” she said.
“Columbus Day” is a symbol of our victory over nature and we are seeing the consequences of that today. Everyone knows about the hurricanes and the wildfires today. We don’t need to just respect indigenous rights, we need to accept and celebrate their indigenous leadership,” said Jeffrey Hotchkiss, a Munjoy Hill resident. Another speaker said that “tradition is not a good reason to keep the Columbus Day holiday going. If that were the case, we would still have slavery.” That came in response to a plea from some not to “erase” the tradition of Columbus Day.
Members of the City Council interpreted the name change differently from some supporters in the chambers who saw it as erasing a long-standing tradition. Councilors saw it as an inclusionary step – affording Portlanders the opportunity to celebrate the upcoming federal holiday however they choose.
On another matter before the City Council, it voted unanimously to approve the appointment of James Kennerley as municipal organist for the Kotzschmar Organ beginning on January 1, 2018. Mr. Kennerley, who is English, currently lives in New York City where he graduated from Julliard. He’s an organist for Saint Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church in New York City. He was introduced to the Council by Peter Plumb.
Mr. Kennerley will be the 11th municipal organist for the 105 year old organ.
Mr. Kennerley, 33, succeeds Ray Cornils who recently retired following 27 years at the Kotzschmar at Merrill Auditorium. “I’m going to try to last one year longer than Mr. Conils did. I’m going for 28 years,” Mr. Kennerley told mhn.com, grinning.