PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — On the eve of Indigenous Peoples Day protesters declared an “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage” and took to the streets of Portland where two statues were toppled and the Oregon Historical Society was vandalized.
In the wake of Sunday night’s events, a member of the Portland Indian Leaders Roundtable expressed his frustration. Paul Lumley was upset by the destruction for a few reasons, one being the damage done to the Oregon Historical Society. He said they just opened an exhibit that does a beautiful job of showcasing Native American history that has been appreciated by tribes across the Pacific Northwest.
For the last five years, the City of Portland has recognized October 12th as Indigenous Peoples Day. Lumley said he remembered the day in 2015 when City Council made the declaration.
“It felt so good,” recalled Lumley. “It felt like finally I didn’t have to keep fighting so hard for tribal rights, that we were going to be embraced by the city, and it just felt so warm and welcoming.”
Lumley, a citizen of the Yakama Nation, said Indigenous Peoples Day is supposed to be filled with celebration. That’s why he didn’t expect to wake up Monday to the news about what took place in downtown Portland the night before.
“When I woke up and saw the news, of course I was pretty disappointed,” said Lumley. “I felt insulted. I felt like I was vandalized by somebody—another group taking what should be a day of celebration of our vibrant culture into one that is Indigenous People’s Day of Rage, which we do not support at all.”
Portland police said Sunday night, a group of people used straps and chains to topple the statue of President Theodore Roosevelt, whose history with Native Americans is considered sordid and racist. The statue of President Abraham Lincoln was also pulled down with “Dakota 38” spray-painted over the base—a reference to Lincoln’s role in a mass execution of Native Americans in Minnesota in 1862.
Lumley said those actions didn’t do the movement for racial justice any favors.
“It is something that is co-opted from our messaging,” he said.
On Monday, the Portland Indian Leaders Roundtable released a statement, saying in part:
“We, the members of the Portland Indian Leaders Roundtable, disapprove of the destruction and theft of property, and threat of violence by those participating in demonstrations last night. As with other resistance movements who have turned out in countless numbers this year, we understand that there is justifiable righteous indignation over the unconscionable mistreatment of our people and communities over centuries, and that Indigenous People’s Day is a time to reflect and speak out against these injustices. Yet, we cannot condone pointless acts of vandalism and the brandishing of weapons that serve only to detract from the real message that must be heard:
Indigenous people continue to suffer at the will of systems designed to eradicate our self-determination, culture, economies, and families. Until we dismantle those systems, there will be no justice.”
KOIN 6 News reached out to the group that organized the “Day of Rage” for comment. They said they don’t talk to media.