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Juneau – Earlier Wednesday, Rep. Dean Westlake (D-Kotzebue) introduced a bill to establish the second Monday in October as an annual holiday in Alaska called “Indigenous Peoples Day.”
“I’d like to bring Alaska to the forefront in showing support for Native peoples and cultures. We have lagged behind our neighbors in Canada in celebrating the importance of our first peoples,” said Rep. Westlake. “This bill is not about dwelling on the past, but is instead about celebrating the continuing vibrancy of our state’s first peoples. Let’s start thinking about what we would like to build upon in the next 58 years of statehood.”
House Bill 78 has received bipartisan support in both the Alaska House of Representatives and the Alaska Senate.
“It is an honor and privilege to support Alaska’s indigenous peoples,” said Senator Click Bishop (R-Fairbanks).
For the past two years, Alaska Governor Bill Walker has proclaimed one year observances of “Indigenous People Day.” In October of 2015, during the annual Alaska Federation of Natives convention, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz established the second Monday in October as “Indigenous Peoples Day” for the Municipality of Anchorage. Rep. Westlake’s legislation builds on the “Indigenous Peoples Day” bill introduced during the 29th Alaska Legislature by Rep. Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage).
“This is an opportunity for all Alaskans, both urban and rural, to honor and celebrate the culture, customs and wisdom of our First Alaskans,” said Rep. Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage). “By declaring every second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day, we will strengthen the bonds between the many different cultures and people that call Alaska home. I am asking all Alaskans to join me in supporting the passage of this legislation.”
HB 78 is being co-sponsored by 11 members of the Alaska House of Representatives, including Rep. Zach Fansler (D-Bethel) and Rep. Millett.
“Formally recognizing the unique contributions of the indigenous people of Alaska with a day of celebration is long overdue,” said Rep. Fansler. “As the Representative for the region that has the largest native population in Alaska, I am looking forward to joining my Alaska Native friends and colleagues on October 9th for a celebration.”
HB 78 was formally introduced today and assigned to the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee. If approved, Alaska would join a growing number of states, cities, and tribes that celebrate “Indigenous Peoples Day” on the second Monday in October.
For more information, please contact Elizabeth Rexford in Rep. Westlake’s office at 907-465-3473