Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman has declined to read a proclamation acknowledging Indigenous People’s Day.
Coffman’s decision came after Aurora City Council member Alison Coombs followed up on a request in May from a citizen that the proclamation be read this year on Indigenous People’s Day, which is Oct. 9.
“He just declined and has not communicated in any way why he chose to decline,” said Coombs. “The request was for a proclamation because that is generally what we do to recognize a day or holiday,” said Coombs, who represents Ward V on the Council.
The state of Colorado recognizes Indigenous People’s Day on what was formerly the date of Columbus Day. The point of the proclamation was simply to recognize Indigenous People’s Day, said Coombs.
So the proclamation will not be read this year, but Coombs will now introduce a resolution at the Aurora City Council meeting Oct. 9 stipulating that the Council will commit to recognizing Indigenous People’s Day annually.
The resolution, which will be voted on by the Council, will ensure that recognition of Indigenous People’s Day won’t be thwarted by Coffman or a future mayor who declines to read the proclamation, says Coombs.
At first, it appeared Coffman might agree to read the proclamation. A Coffman staffer asked the city’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) office in November to evaluate the request for the proclamation, according to an email exchange provided by a source. The DEI office approved the request.
In August, the proclamation was even added, pending approval, to the agenda of an October meeting of the Council, according to the emails.
But this month, to the surprise of Coombs, Coffman and Mayor Pro Tem Curtis Gardner nixed the request.
“The approval process for this proclamation request is over and the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem have denied the request,” stated a Coffman staffer in an email to Coombs. “DEI has been notified.”
Coombs said Gardner later told her he misunderstood what the proclamation was. He indicated he’d support Coombs’ resolution at the Oct. 9 Aurora City Council meeting to acknowledge Indigenous People’s Day going forward. Gardner didn’t immediately return a call for comment, and Coffman could not be reached.
Coombs says reading the proclamation isn’t an empty exercise.
“We have a moral responsibility at this stage in history to acknowledge indigenous peoples instead of praising and recognizing one of the main historical figures that committed genocide against indigenous people,” said Coombs.