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Marathon County Declares Indigenous Peoples’ Day

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The Marathon County Board unanimously approved a resolution declaring the second Monday in October, traditionally recognized as Columbus Day, as Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead.

The move follows Wausau Mayor Robert Mielke making a similar declaration for the City of Wausau.

Ho-Chunk Supreme Court Associate Justice Tricia Zunker, who also serves on the Wausau School Board, led the charge to have the day declared to honor Wisconsin’s 11 recognized Native American nations.

“It’s kind of a no-brainer,” Zunker said. “What’s the controversy? Recognizing the original inhabitants of the area and acknowledging the diversity, acknowledging different cultures, traditions, customs. Why would that be controversial?”

Zunker said she encountered no resistance from the Marathon County Diversity Affairs Commission, nor any of the committees the resolution had to go through, nor the County Board.

“I was a little concerned somebody might speak up against it, but at the educational meeting last Thursday I gave public comment, and nobody spoke up. I only heard support, there was only support for it,” she said. “And then (Tuesday) night there was also an opportunity for the county board supervisors to speak on it and again it was only support from the county board supervisors that did speak up.”

Marathon County and the City of Wausau join a growing number of communities across the nation, including Los Angeles and Madison, to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day on the same day that Americans have traditionally celebrated Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Caribbean.

Zunker, for her part, is not quite satisfied with her local victory.

“I thought I was going to take a break, but this morning I was already contacting Governor Evers’ office urging a (statewide) proclamation,” she said. “And I also contacted my local state representative, Pat Snyder, because I’m a constituent, but then I also contacted Senator Lena Taylor on this because I know this is something that’s of interest to her. She got back to me right away by email.”

Indigenous Peoples Day will be recognized in Marathon County on October 14, 2019, just after the area’s first pow wow, scheduled for October 12 and 13 at Wausau West High School.