By De’Sean Quinn, Metro Assistant General Manager for Strategy and Partnerships
This is the second year King County has recognized this day as a paid holiday, and I have been reflecting on the significance and symbolism of that.
Like many of you, I remember learning about Christopher Columbus in elementary school and how we were taught that America was discovered in 1492, when really the land had been inhabited by people for thousands and thousands of years.
When we talk about racial justice, we often talk about addressing historical wrongs or unlearning or undoing the harm caused by settler colonialism and racism. While recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a holiday cannot change history, it does symbolize change. It makes me hopeful. It reminds me that we can, and must, continue to reconcile and repair the harms caused to American Indian, Alaska Native, and Indigenous people in our community and country.
We are fortunate to live in a region that benefits tremendously from the generations of Native American people on whose land we currently live, including the unceded ancestral lands of the Muckleshoot, Snoqualmie, Puyallup, Tulalip and Suquamish Tribes, and the Duwamish people. Let us also recognize that we occupy land that was stolen from these tribes through broken treaties and broken promises.
It is important to acknowledge this truth to better understand how these past injustices continue to affect Indigenous communities, our region, and the people who inhabit our region today.
Our own Operator of the Year, Lisa Nault, claims Native Alaskan heritage as a member of the Tlingit Tribe. She says of the holiday:
“I am very pleased and happy the county has recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” Nault said. “It’s a real honor.”
She learned to take pride in her roots through the wonderful example of her family:
“I am very fortunate to have my mother’s, mother’s mother in my life,” Nault said. “She lived to be 100, and I learned a great deal from her, and other family members, by watching generations of women in my family work, on being a good person through their examples.”
As we learn to lean into our values at King County to help right historical wrongs, let’s remember that healing is possible, and we all have a personal role and responsibility in helping to create a community where tribes and Indigenous peoples thrive. I encourage you to take time this holiday to reflect on and learn more about Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
I look forward to learning and sharing more about the Indigenous community at Metro and our region when we recognize Native American Heritage Month in November.