Akron City Council voted Monday to add a day to the municipal calendar to appreciate and recognize the contributions and tribulations of the native peoples of North America.

After a week of considering a plan proposed by local students and Native America advocates, City Council accepted a slight change and voted unanimously to make the first Monday in October North American First People’s Day, as opposed to just a more generic First People’s Day.

The original proposal was offered last week by students at the Lippman School, a private school that celebrates tolerance and hardship through the Jewish and other persecuted cultures.

The slight change, adding “North American,” was meant to make the distinction between the native peoples of the North America and Caribbean islands — like Haiti and Cuba, where Europeans conquered, killed and replaced indigenous people — with African slaves.

Stepping up to a microphone to speak to City Council on controversial and historical injustices rooted in racism, LaDonna BlueEye explained that she’s the perfect person to address the discomfort of talking about what the U.S. government and European explorers have done to minorities in North America.

“I am a Native American who is also part black, and therefore am in a unique position to speak to this resolution,” said BlueEye, an Akron resident and former assistant professor in Indiana University’s Department of Applied Health Science in the School of Public Health.

BlueEye’s heritage as a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma lends to speaking about her people’s matriarchal past.

She explained that her people, as with all Native American people, were not granted citizenship or the right to vote by the U.S. government until the 20th century and the right to practice their religion in 1978, when she was 14.

Councilman Rich Swirsky thanked the Lippman students for broaching with compassion the delicate topic. “I hope you remember this your whole life,” he told those who were able to attend the afternoon city meeting on a school day.

Councilwoman Linda Omobien thanked Councilman Russ Neal for initially raising the issue last year with a proposal that would have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. That proposal divided council and failed along racial lines, leading to months of introspection that ultimately upset the balance of power on council.

Reach Doug Livingston at 330-996-3792 or dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him @ABJDoug on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/doug.livingston.92 on Facebook.