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La Crosse marks its fourth Indigenous Peoples' Day with mayoral proclamation

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City of La Crosse celebrates its fourth Indigenous Peoples' Day

Levi Blackdeer of Onalaska, a Vietnam War veteran and member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, wears a traditional headdress as he presented the colors with an honor guard Oct. 14, 2019, during the opening ceremony for La Crosse’s first Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration at Myrick Park.

Mayor Mitch Reynolds issued a proclamation Monday recognizing it as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, continuing the city’s celebration of Native Americans instead of Christopher Columbus each October.

It was the fourth year in a row the city has recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The proclamation details that the day is intended to recognize the traumas and struggles that those native to La Crosse endured, to educate about and celebrate their culture, as well as to uplift the communities and commit to collaborating with them.

In recent years, communities have chosen to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in lieu of Columbus Day, which many say glorifies the colonization and genocide of Native Americans, and falsely celebrates Christopher Columbus, who enslaved and committed violence against indigenous people.

Several states, including Wisconsin, have recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and this year marks the first that a sitting U.S. president has officially recognized the holiday, though it has not replaced Columbus Day.

The La Crosse region was first home to the Ho-Chunk, and the city’s proclamation attempts to highlight the harm and displacement done to them in the region.

“The Ho-Chunk people of this community were subjected to seven removals starting in 1829, and were forced to sign the Treaty of 1837, ceding all territory east of the Mississippi, and were then forced to hide while bravely returning to the land they call home,” it states.

Mitch Reynolds

Mitch Reynolds, La Crosse mayor

At this time, the federal government attempted six different times to forcibly remove local Ho-Chunk to reservations up and down the Mississippi River on a steamboat, according to the Voices of La Crosse History Tours.

The history project states that some of the earliest communities in the La Crosse region were identified as the Mississippian and Oneota cultures, who were “Wisconsin’s first farmers,” and historians have identified a number of Indigenous burial sites that have been disrupted by developments throughout the city, including under the Oktoberfest Grounds and other sites near downtown.

“The city of La Crosse seeks to continue to support Indigenous Nations’ struggles for social and environmental justice, religious freedom and tribal sovereignty,” the city’s proclamation states.

It added that the city “honors our city’s Indigenous roots and history, and seeks with this celebration to bring greater understanding to the people of La Crosse regarding indigenous cultures and the enormous contributions they have made and continue to make to our nation and to the city of La Crosse

The city first recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2018, and this proclamation reissues a commitment to recognize it each year.

The holiday has typically been marked with a celebration in the city, but it was cancelled last year due to the pandemic.

"The city of La Crosse seeks to continue to support Indigenous Nations' struggles for social and environmental justice, religious freedom and tribal sovereignty."

City of La Crosse proclamation 

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