October 12, 2014

Rise of Indigenous Peoples' Day

Why Columbus Day is becoming Indigenous Peoples' Day:

Taking the Columbus Out of Columbus Day

By Rev. David FeltenAny claim that one might have to Columbus having been a noble explorer worth honoring with a Federal holiday is eclipsed by the reality of the inhumanity he visited upon his fellow human beings. It's long overdue that more of us get serious about doing something different with Columbus Day. Of course, any attempt at removing it from the roster of federal holidays would literally be making a federal case out of it--and retailers would likely cry foul over a lost opportunity to offer their wares at "Blowout Columbus Day Prices!" Along with those who, despite reality, can still deny the holocaust and those who would howl over historical revisionism, there are many challenges. Accusations of anti-Italian racism, anti-Catholic bigotry, and treasonous un-American activities are sure to be heard. But how does celebrating a fabricated and corrupt idol benefit the cause of Italians, Catholics, or the integrity of Americans' shared history?

But there are signs of change: this year marks both Portland schools and the City of Seattle's decision to celebrate "Indigenous People's Day" on the same day as Columbus Day. They join the cities of Berkeley, Minneapolis, and other municipalities across the country who have either replaced Columbus Day altogether or introduced an alternative Indigenous People's Day. These trail blazers are the first step in what will likely be a prolonged effort toward redefining an observance that needs way too many asterisks and footnotes to justify why it is still celebrated.

"Columbus Day" may very well be with us for yet another eighty years and beyond, but that's not to say that, over time, it can't be transitioned into a new kind of observance, a teachable moment of repentance and wide-eyed honesty about our shared past and hope for the future.

Indigenous People's Day (formerly known as Columbus Day) is likely to be a threat to those who claim the ideology of American Exceptionalism as their doctrine and faith--but what is more exceptional than honesty, repentance, and committing to a future of treating others with the dignity and respect due every human being? America might not be grown up enough to handle it, but hopefully, before another 80 years passes, Christopher Columbus will be a footnote to Indigenous People's Day (and not the other way around).
Salt in the wound: Why it’s time to move on from Columbus Day

By Joe GousseFor the vast majority of Americans, Columbus Day is a day to which they look forward. It’s a day off. A much needed reprieve. But for native people, it’s a solemn reminder of the great cost at which our present existence has come. It’s reminder of a history steeped in bloodshed and atrocity—after all, Columbus wrote freely in his diaries about the peaceful nature of the first natives he encountered and how “easily” they might be enslaved.

While the rest of us celebrate a day to watch Monday night football, or get some extra yard work in before the first frost, native people are left to consider the weighty reality of this nation’s history.

So where does that leave us as a society? Does it even matter? Should we do away with Columbus Day in its entirety? The answer, surprisingly, is no. A cogent solution is to reappropriate Columbus Day as “Indigenous Peoples Day”—which a number of cities across the U.S. observe—or “Native Americans Day.”

Honoring native people and culture in place of Columbus isn’t a cure-all. It doesn’t come close to healing gaping, historic wounds. But then again, nothing can. What observance of this day does do is properly refocus the spirit of the holiday. It creates something of utility from which we can stand together and honor the traditions of a people who have called these lands home since time immemorial.
Some details on how the designation came about in Seattle:

The Rise of Indigenous Peoples Day

By Matt RemleOn October 6, 2014, in a packed Seattle city hall council chambers room, the Seattle city council voted unanimously to rename the second Monday in October, the federal holiday Columbus Day, to Indigenous Peoples’ Day for the city of Seattle. The room erupted in emotion with loud cheers, the sound of drums and the sight of overjoyed, smiling and crying faces followed by an impromptu singing of the AIM song in the halls of Seattle city hall.

The Seattle city council vote followed the previous weeks unanimous vote by the Seattle school board to both establish the second Monday in October as a day of observance for Indigenous Peoples’ and to make a board commitment to the teaching of tribal history, culture, governance and current affairs into the Seattle public schools system.

The origins for both the Seattle city council and Seattle school board resolutions date back to 2011, when I was attending an Abolish Columbus Day rally in downtown Seattle. As I was listening to the beautiful songs of a local canoe family, I started thinking about South Dakota and their successful effort to change Columbus Day to Native American Day. That night I decided to contact members of the Seattle city council, as well as, my local State Legislatures to see if they might be willing to do something similar on either the City or State level.

To my surprise, the following morning I got a phone call from Washington State Senator Margarita Prentice and proceeded to have a long conversation about the genocide brought by Columbus to our Native relatives in the Caribbean and how she would love to sponsor a resolution on the State level. She simply asked that I draft a resolution and seek support from area tribes first before she would sponsor the resolution.

Elated, I immediately contacted Theresa Sheldon and Deborah Parker from Tulalip, who were both policy analyst for the Tulalip Tribes at that time, and whom currently sit on the Tulalip Board of Directors, to let them know the news. They agreed to take the resolution to the 2011 Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians annual conference and put the Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution before the conference for a vote. The resolution was unanimously approved, and although the resolution ultimately did not succeed on the State level, the seeds of the Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution for Seattle were sown.
Comment:  For more on Columbus Day, see Obama's Columbus Day Proclamation and Winning the War on Columbus?

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