Park City political events held on ‘traditional and stolen homelands’ of American Indians |

Park City political events held on ‘traditional and stolen homelands’ of American Indians

Land acknowledgment statement read before City Hall candidate gatherings at the library

Diego Zegarra, an activist and the Park City Community Foundation vice president of equity and impact, delivers a land acknowledgment statement prior to a Park City Council candidate forum at the Park City Library. The statement included an assertion that the event was held “on the traditional and stolen homelands of the Ute and Eastern Shoshone.”
Park Record file photo

Mayor Andy Beerman and his challenger, Park City Councilor Nann Worel, appeared during a recent candidate forum at the Santy Auditorium at the Park City Library, covering a range of topics that are seen as the keys to the City Hall election this year.

At the outset of the event, and another one focused on the Park City Council election, though, a statement was read to the crowd that was notable in a community where social equity is one of the priorities of leaders like Beerman and Worel.

Diego Zegarra, an activist and the Park City Community Foundation vice president of equity and impact, delivered what is known as a land acknowledgment statement, something that is designed to highlight the history of the American Indians who inhabited the continent prior to the arrival of Europeans in the New World. The event was held on Oct. 11, which was Columbus Day and a day marked by some as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

The statement by Zegarra, as prepared for delivery, read: “Today, on Indigenous People’s Day, we sit on the traditional and stolen homelands of the Ute and Eastern Shoshone who are the original stewards of the land since time immemorial. It is an individual and institutional responsibility to recognize the People, culture, and history from which we all benefit. Consistent with our commitment to equity and allyship it is important to be proactive in broadening awareness, act against systems of oppression, and to remember we are on Indigenous People’s land.”

Zegarra is a key figure in Park City’s broad social equity efforts, with his role at the foundation putting him in a position of influence.

Social equity is among the priorities at City Hall, and the municipal government and the foundation are seen as having close ties. The social equity efforts are designed to ensure Park City welcomes people of various races, ages, genders and socioeconomic status, among others. There was rising concern in the years after the recession of more than a decade ago about a loss of community diversity.

Latinos are the only minority inside Park City in significant numbers. The U.S. Census Bureau in 2019 estimated just 0.3% of the Park City population was American Indian or Alaskan native. American Indian issues are only occasionally put to the elected officials in Park City, such as discussions about marking Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the community.

The two mayoral candidates provided prepared statements regarding the land acknowledgment in response to an inquiry by The Park Record.

Beerman’s statement: “I was happy we opened the PCCB_PCCF candidate forum with a land acknowledgement. This was especially poignant on Indigenous People’s Day. We are learning the importance of small gestures, which can serve as positive beacons to those that may feel marginalized. Whether it’s raising a pride flag, providing gender neutral bathrooms, or a land acknowledgement, these actions show we are listening, acknowledge our history of inequity, and invite new voices to the conversation.”

Worel’s statement: “Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I was surrounded by the art, culture and stories of the First Nations. I have deep respect for those that came before us as well as horror and shame for the way their land was taken from them by colonizers. Land acknowledgments help us understand the longstanding history of the land we call home, the ongoing rights of First Nations, and a more equitable future on the land we are privileged to share with our Indigenous neighbors. The acknowledgement of the Eastern Shoshone and Ute offered by Diego Zegarra was important on Indigenous People’s Day, particularly as we went on in the mayoral debate that followed to discuss issues related to social equity. It is not possible to root change anywhere other than in a bed of acknowledgment, and what better place for us to begin as Parkites than with the dirt we stand on.”

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