Mayor Jackie Biskupski was joined by Native American community advocates to proclaim November 2016 “Native American Heritage Month in Salt Lake City” and reaffirm support for Standing Rock Sioux protest. Below are her remarks:
Good morning! Today we are gathered to acknowledge and celebrate the culture and contributions of Native Americans and Indigenous peoples in our state and in Salt Lake City, by proclaiming November as Native American Heritage Month in Salt Lake City.
As a City we recognize that a critical part of Native American heritage is sovereignty, so we gather today with the events taking place at Standing Rock weighing deeply on our hearts and on our minds.
We gather today in solidarity with those taking a stand in defense of the environment, culture, and respect in North Dakota. Understanding that their struggle is our struggle.
As has been said throughout this movement “water is life.” And like life, giving water, equality and respect must flow freely and purely in order to quench our collective thirst for justice.
A few weeks ago, I joined like-minded Mayors from across the country in a letter to President Barack Obama. We called on his Administration to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Our request was simple: halt further construction until a full environmental and cultural review is completed.
There is simply too much at stake to get this wrong. Our hearts break at the thought of decimating sacred lands. We fear contamination of water and the effects that would have on the local environment. And, we have deep concern on the long-term climate change effects caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
We are stronger through the countless contributions of Native Americans who call Salt Lake City home.
Today, and throughout November we honor them, both through celebration and through action to respect the values they have brought to this land for generations.
Now I invite you all to listen and reflect upon the words of our next few speakers who have made it their calling in life to move forward those value in the city we all share…
The Mayor then paused for the following speakers (in order of appearance):
Yolanda Francisco-Nez: Director of the Mayor’s Office of Diversity and Human Rights and a member of the Dine’ tribe.
Franci Taylor: Executive Director of the University of Utah American Indian Resource Center, a participating member of the Indigenous People’s working group at the United Nations, and a member of the Choctaw Nation.
Kilo Zamora: Chairman of the Salt Lake City Human Rights Commission, instructor of social justice courses at the University of Utah, and former executive director of the Inclusion Center for Community and Justice in Salt Lake City.
James Singer: Adjunct professor of sociology courses at Westminster College and Salt Lake Community College, founding member of the Utah League of Native American Voters, and a member of the Dine’ tribe.
Cassandra Begay: Advocate for Peaceful Advocates for Native Dialogue & Organizing Support (PANDOS).
I am honored to now read and officially sign this proclamation for “Native American Heritage Month in Salt Lake City.”
The young woman standing beside me is AshNe’a Anderson who is Miss Nataanii for the Adopt a Native Elder Program for the Navajo Nation.
Ms. Anderson is from the Dine’ and Mascalero Apache tribes, and she will accept the proclamation today.
WHEREAS, Native Americans, the indigenous peoples of North America, lived on this vast landscape long before Europeans arrived; and
WHEREAS, Native Americans continue to hold strong familial traditions that have endured the centuries and are passed on from one generation to another; and
WHEREAS, Salt Lake City is home to several Native American people representing the Diné, Ute, Shoshone, Paiute, Goshute, and other tribes that enhance the cultural diversity of the city; and
WHEREAS, Native Americans have contributed immensely to our city and our country, distinguishing themselves as educators, business owners, artists, and defenders of our nation who have played a pivotal role since the Revolutionary War, but especially in World Wars I and II, when they served as invaluable code talkers and transmitted messages in the Native American languages, untranslatable at the time; and
WHEREAS, the earth and its natural elements are intrinsic parts of the Native American soul and well-being, and as a society we stand to learn from those who place reverence and value on the water, air, and precious landscape that also provide for spiritual sustenance and healing; and
WHEREAS, with more than 70 percent of Native Americans now living off the reservation settings, we are proud that Salt Lake City has more than 2,300 Native Americans and Alaskan Natives; and
WHEREAS, each November we commemorate Native American Heritage Month to celebrate the rich history of the original inhabitants of North America and to recommit to the broader struggle for human rights and lowering of barriers for Native Americans.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Jacqueline M. Biskupski, Mayor of Salt Lake City, do hereby proclaim November 2016, as:
Native American Heritage Month in Salt Lake City