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Monday, September 26, 2022

Indigenous Peoples’ Day: What It Is and Why It Matters

President Biden has declared Monday, Oct. 11, as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, making him the first sitting president of the United States to do so in official fashion.

According to President Joe Biden’s proclamation released on Friday, “for centuries, Federal programmed have deliberately attempted to integrate and displace Native people, as well as destroy Native traditions.” We celebrate Indigenous peoples’ perseverance and fortitude today, as well as the enormous beneficial influence that they have had on every area of American life, according to the statement.

Indigenous groups and other residents have been calling for the holiday to be abolished for several years, and states such as Alaska and New Mexico have adopted it in response to calls from Indigenous groups and other residents not to celebrate Christopher Columbus, the Italian navigator who the holiday is named after, who they claim brought genocide and colonization to communities that had been in the United States for thousands of years. Many people across the nation, however, continue to observe Columbus Day or Italian Heritage Day as a source of pride in their Italian heritage.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day has not been recognized by all states, and some members of Indigenous communities believe that just acknowledging the day does not go far enough. It is not currently recognized as a federal holiday, but a bill in Congress is being considered that would make it so. Here’s a little additional background information.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which is celebrated annually on the second Monday in October, honors the Indigenous peoples who have lived in the United States for thousands of years and are still alive now. It became more popular as a substitute for Columbus Day, which is intended to commemorate the explorer who set out from Spain in three ships, the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, in 1492 with a crew to discover the New World.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day was observed in dozens of cities and states throughout the United States prior to the president’s proclamation. As a result, more and more colleges and businesses are recognizing it. South Dakota is thought to have been the first state to formally celebrate the day (as Native Americans’ Day), doing so in 1990. Members of various tribes in the Sioux Nation make up about 10% of the state’s population, according to census data. There are additional official holidays in Alaska, Oregon, and Vermont, and many more states have recognized the day via proclamations. Cities such as Berkeley, Calif., Seattle, and Minneapolis were among the first to embrace the technology.

Similar memorial days are observed under a variety of different titles around the globe. Since 1996, Canada has observed a National Indigenous Peoples’ Day on June 21, and the country celebrated the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30, this year — the Canadian government has apologized numerous times for the suppression and forced assimilation of Indigenous communities.

Statues commemorating Christopher Columbus have been demolished in places all over the globe, including Mexico City, in the recent past.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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