In his weekly news conference Monday – Columbus Day -- Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson announced a new observance for the city, honoring those who were already here when Columbus landed in the New World.
“Columbus Day has not provided an opportunity for us to reflect on the colonialization of North America by Europeans,” the mayor said. “Prior to colonization, indigenous people lived and flourished in America —including Florida and right here in Pensacola — for thousands of years.”
Robinson started off his weekly news conference by reading a proclamation to that end.
“From here forward, as declared by the City Council, the second Monday in October will be celebrated as ‘Indigenous Peoples Day,’” the mayor read from the proclamation. “We look forward to having a larger celebration next year, and continuing to find opportunities to recognize this day and educate the community about Native American culture.”
Joining the mayor at the podium was local artist Sean Linezo, who is calling for a display recognizing a Native American leader – possibly Chief Osceola – to join the bust of Andrew Jackson at Plaza Ferdinand.
“This sky, this earth, and this water -- that makes Pensacola so beautiful – is life,” Linezo said. “And Florida is the ancestral land of the Apalachee Nation; the Muscogee Creek Nation, the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida, and Seminole Tribe of Florida.”
In his statement, Linezo said modern-day flags – both national and tribal – originated with Christopher Columbus’ landing on Hispaniola’s Turtle Island in 1492 to represent control and possession of the land.
“As Pensacola, we primarily celebrate our local history as ‘The City of Five Flags,’” Linezo said. “Every day of the year we fly the five flags, of the five colonizing nations. This year, on Indigenous Peoples Day, we take them down for a moment and raise the flags of the Five Civilized Tribes.” (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek-Muscogee, and Seminole).
Linezo also read a passage from the book “American Sunrise” by Joy Harjo – the first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States. The excerpt describes the “Trail of Tears” when Cherokees were forced west in 1830 on orders from President Andrew Jackson.
“We were rounded up with what we can carry,” Linezo read from the book. “We were forced to leave behind houses; printing presses, stores, cattle, schools, pianos, ceremonial grounds, tribal towns, churches. We witnessed immigrants walking into our homes with their guns, bibles, household goods, and families – taking what had been ours.”
“Certainly we still have very active Poarch Creek Indians that are here in the Escambia County, Florida; Baldwin County and Escambia County in Alabama,” said Mayor Grover Robinson. “
Robinson also said cleanup from Hurricane Sally is rolling on. City sanitation and contract workers have collected about 295,000 cubic yards of yard debris. Completion of the first sweep is expected sometime next week, then it’s on to a second and third sweep involving C&D construction and demolition debris.
“We are currently picking up some, but we will focus a little bit more on the C&D, which is your fences; things from inside your house, household products and those things,” said Robinson. “Almost everybody had yard debris; not everybody has C&D. We will come back and get your C&D.”
Elsewhere, the mayor announced the results of the second annual Employee Engagement and Satisfaction Survey. More than seven in 10 city workers are satisfied to work for the city, and over half are highly engaged in their work.