Indigenous Peoples’ Day

“It is not the big dramatic things so much that get us down, but just being Indian, trying to hang on to our way of life, language, and values while being surrounded by an alien, more powerful culture.” —Mary Crow Dog, American Indian activist

The idea of replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day occurred in 1977, at a UN-sponsored conference in Geneva, Switzerland, on discrimination against indigenous populations in the Americas. But it wasn’t until 1991 that activists in Berkeley, California, convinced the Berkeley City Council to declare October 12 a “Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People.” Since then, there has been a growing movement to appropriate Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. States including South Dakota, Hawaii, and Alabama (but not Colorado) have changed the holiday’s name, and many more cities have taken similar action.

On this Indigenous Peoples’ Day, this blogger intends to spend some quiet meditation honoring indigenous resistance and to contemplate how to best confront current injustices. For our readers, I’ve linked to some great posts and articles on the history of Christopher Columbus and on Indigenous Peoples’ Day below:

Blueness has a great post on Admiral Columbus at The Daily Kos. From the post:

What is known is that when the Admiral stepped ashore on Hispaniola, he brought Original Sin to the New World. The policies he pursued there exterminated that island’s people, the Taino. Every one.…

Today,’ the Taino survive in the shape of one’s eyes, the outline of one’s face, the idiom of one’s language.” All the rest is gone.

From Hispaniola, the Admiral and his works brought destruction too to all the native peoples of all the rest of the Americas—north, central, and south.

And to replace the falling bodies of the Taino, who died extracting gold and silver for him, the Admiral birthed the transatlantic slave trade, bringing to the New World in bondage people from the place where people were born.”

Racialicious has posted “An Open Letter to Urban Outfitters on Columbus Day,” in which Sasha Houston Brown writes:

“I doubt that you consulted the Navajo Nation about using their tribal name on sophisticated items such as the “Navajo Hipster Panty.” In fact, I recently became aware that the Navajo Nation Attorney General sent your company a cease and desist letter regarding this very issue. I stand in solidarity with the Navajo Nation and ask that you not only cease and desist selling products falsely using the Navajo name, but that you also stop selling faux Indian apparel that objectifies all tribes.

Urban Outfitters Inc. has taken Indigenous life ways and artistic expressions and trivialized and sexualized them for the sake of corporate profit. It is this kind of behavior that perpetuates the stereotype of the white man’s Indian and allows for the ongoing commodification of an entire ethnic group. Just as our traditional homelands were stolen and expropriated without regard, so too has our very cultural identity. On this day that America still celebrates as Columbus Day, I ask that do what is morally right and apologize to Indigenous peoples of North America and withdraw this offensive line from retail stores.”

There’s also a great excerpt from Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States on Christopher Columbus at the Manifest Destiny blog. From the excerpt:

“When we read the history books given to children in the United States, it all starts with heroic adventure—there is no bloodshed—and Columbus Day is a celebration.

The treatment of heroes (Columbus) and their victims (the Arawaks) the quiet acceptance of conquest and murder in the name of progress-is only one aspect of a certain approach to history, in which the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats, leaders. It is as if they, like Columbus, deserve universal acceptance, as if they—the Founding Fathers, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, the leading members of Congress, the famous Justices of the Supreme Court—represent the nation as a whole. The pretense is that there really is such a thing as “the United States,” subject to occasional conflicts and quarrels, but fundamentally a community of people with common interests. It is as if there really is a “national interest” represented in the Constitution, in territorial expansion, in the laws passed by Congress, the decisions of the courts, the development of capitalism, the culture of education and the mass media.”

Last year, on the Republic of Lakotah site, Glenn Morris and Russell Means did a great piece on why AIM opposes Christopher Columbus Day and Christopher Columbus celebrations. And today, the site has a great post calling out Occupy Denver and asking them to integrate Native peoples and methods into the Occupy movement. From the post:

“We have been waiting for 519 years for such a movement, ever since that fateful day in October 1492, when a different worldview arrived—one of greed, hierarchy, destruction and genocide.

In observing the “Occupy Together” expansion, we are reminded that the territories of our indigenous nations have been “under occupation” for decades, if not centuries. We remind the occupants of this encampment in Denver that they are on the territories of the Cheyenne, Arapaho and Ute peoples.  In the U.S., indigenous nations were the first targets of corporate/government oppression. The landmark case of Johnson v. McIntosh(1823), which institutionalized the “doctrine of discovery” in U.S. law, and which justified the theft of 2 billion acres of indigenous territory, established a framework of corrupt political/legal/corporate collusion that continues throughout indigenous America, to the present.

If this movement is serious about confronting the foundational assumptions of the current U.S. system, then it must begin by addressing the original crimes of the U.S. colonizing system against indigenous nations. Without addressing justice for indigenous peoples, there can never be a genuine movement for justice and equality in the United States. Toward that end, we challenge Occupy Denver to take the lead, and to be the first “Occupy” city to integrate into its philosophy, a set of values that respects the rights of indigenous peoples, and that recognizes the importance of employing indigenous visions and models in restoring environmental, social, cultural, economic and political health to our homeland.” 

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About fulcrumpublishing
Founded in 1984, Fulcrum Publishing is one of the largest independent publishers in the country, with more than 450 active titles. The company maintains a high standard of quality and pride in its books, with the objective of encouraging readers to live life to the fullest and learn something new each day. Fulcrum Publishing specializes in general-interest nonfiction titles with focuses in public policy, education, Native American culture and history, travel and outdoor recreation, environmentalism, and gardening. Fulcrum is headquartered in Golden, Colorado. The Fulcrum Publishing blog is run and updated by Dani Perea. Please feel free to get in touch with any questions, comments, or ideas by e-mailing her at Dani[at]fulcrumbooks[dot com].

One Response to Indigenous Peoples’ Day

  1. Pingback: Fear of a [Not White] Planet « Spreading the Word

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