By Gladys B. Vargas
Oxnard city council members designated October 9th as Indigenous Peoples Day at a city council meeting Tuesday night.
The ceremonial item was presented by Mayor John Zaragoza at a council meeting Oct. 3, with a proclamation noting that the city of Oxnard “wishes to celebrate and honor indigenous people in a way that better reflects the experiences of indigenous people, and to hold in esteem the roots and history and contributions.”
Melissa Parr Hernandez, a Chumash elder present for the proclamation, spoke on her family’s pride in their identity as indigenous people.
“My mom was always very adamant of letting us know that we were Chumash Indians. Before we got a tooth, we knew what we were… But I’m really proud, now she’s not here now, but I know she’s watching.”
According to the proclamation, the idea of Indigenous Peoples Day was first proposed in 1977 by the delegation of native nations in the United Nations-sponsored International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations.
Many American cities and states have already recognized Indigenous People’s Day, which shifts the focus of Columbus Day from the eponymous Italian navigator to the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, who have been impacted for generations by the repercussions of European exploration and colonialism. President Biden has issued proclamations acknowledging Indigenous People’s Day since 2021, while also issuing proclamations for Columbus Day in celebration of Italian Americans.
In the recent proclamation, the Oxnard city council recognizes that the city “is located on the traditional lands of Chumash people, who have been stewards of this land for 13,000 years,” and that Oxnard “continues to be the home of both Chumash communities and indigenous migrant communities.”
Zaragoza mentioned the recent name-change event in Oxnard, in which what was formerly known as “Oxnard State beach Park” was renamed to “Olołkoy Beach Park,” after the Chumash name for dolphin.
Robin Redwater was part of the group that spoke for the proclamation, and said she was thankful her work as a translator was able to contribute to the beach re-naming advocacy and the holiday recognition.
“In my journey of translating and working with the nephew of the last native speaker in world-renowned linguist [Mary Joachina Yee], I never thought that my translating would help with something like this.”