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Indianapolis adds Indigenous People’s Day, Juneteenth as holidays for employees

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Starting in 2021, in an effort to stress the importance of social justice, the city of Indianapolis will observe a couple of different holidays.

These holidays carry cultural significance, and deep meanings. Hurt and trauma are feelings that some central Indiana Hoosiers experience during Columbus Day observances.

“That was the beginning of the trans-Atlantic slave trade as well, so it’s not just indigenous people, but other people of color in this hemisphere. That is a harsh reminder of what our ancestors had to go through in order for us to be here today,” said Carolina Castoreno-Santana, executive director of the American Indian Center of Indiana.

On Monday night, the Indianapolis City-County Council approved a proposal to change the city’s official holidays for employees. Instead of observing Columbus Day, which falls on the second Monday of October, the city now plans to recognize Indigenous People’s Day. The proposal would also remove Good Friday as a city employee holiday.

“We believe the celebration of Indigenous People’s Day and Juneteenth honors and reflects our values of inclusivity with regard to our city as a whole but also our nation’s history,” said Renee Madison, the director of human resources for the city government.

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Castoreno-Santana says she has worked and pushed hard to get something like this to happen. “This came as a shock, but a pleasant shock. I’m so grateful because we have had such a struggle of visibility of indigenous people in Central Indiana. With Indianapolis and Indiana itself being known as ‘The Land of the Indians,’ I think that it’s only right that our city and state hopefully follows, take this next step, that we’re following along with those who are doing the right thing in the country.”

City-County councilors also decided that Juneteenth will be a city holiday observed on June 19. That day marks the emancipation, or freedom, of the last African-American slaves in the U.S. on Jan. 1, 1863. That message of freedom and the Civil War’s end didn’t reach enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, until June 19, 1865.

“I think, you know, commemorations such as Juneteenth are the kind that we continuously need to keep us aware and focused on the idea that freedom is a constant struggle,” said Leslie Etienne, director of Africana studies at IUPUI.

Castoreno-Santana told News 8 that she believes it’s important that this step is taken, and she hopes people consider the why and what this means not just for indigenous people. She says the fact that both of these days will be observed in the same year is emblematic of the strength and solidarity that oppressed people in Indy show with each other.

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