November 15, 2008

A month and a day for Indians

Native American Heritage Day passed into law

Friday after Thanksgiving will be designated as day of tributeThe National Indian Gaming Association acknowledges the passing into law of H. J. Res. 62, which designates the Friday after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day 2008.

The Native American Heritage Day 2008 Bill, which is supported by the National Indian Gaming Association, National Congress of American Indians, (NCAI) and Indian tribes across the country, encourages the people of the United States, as well as the federal, state and local governments and interested groups and organizations to observe Native American Heritage Day with appropriate programs, ceremonies and activities. The Resolution was introduced by Congressman Joe Baca (D-CA) and Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) who helped move the Resolution through the Senate.

NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. said, “This is a great moment for Indian country. Signing this bill into law officially recognizes, remembers and formally celebrates the history, achievements and certainly the major contributions to the American democracy by Native America.

“This law encourages the United States to honor Native America by celebrating Native American Heritage Day in all of your communities as a way to create stronger public awareness and understanding of Indian country, our culture, traditions, language and the strength, honor and patriotism, of our people.”
Comment:  So now there's a Native American Heritage Day? In the middle of American Indian Heritage Month? What are we supposed to do on the day that we weren't doing already during the month?

As with the actual and proposed apologies to Native people, this designation is largely symbolic. It won't change anything unless the words are matched with actions. For example, people won't recognize a holiday-like celebration until it's made an official holiday--with no mail delivery and a paid day off work.

I mean an official holiday beyond what the day after Thanksgiving already is. On that day, most kids are already out of school and many people are already off work. So this designation won't change much of anything. It won't cause much of anyone to think about Native culture and history.

If you truly want to honor Indians, get rid of the Eurocentric and outdated Columbus Day. Replace that with Native American Heritage Day. That'll tell everyone we're serious about honoring our indigenous forebearers.

Below:  Two "honorees" and an Indian.


dmarks said...

Make it Indians and Italians day, and it might have more of a chance of taking off. Italian-Americans often take Columbus Day seriously, and it is not necessarily tied to Columbus himself.

Anonymous said...

Whites in America desperately need Columbus Day as this observance is so deeply imbedded within their collective awareness of all things truly American, that to remove it as a national holiday would be unthinkable.

Columbus Day brings them a great amount of comfort, even as adults, like their favorite childhood comfort foods did and still do (e.g., macaroni and cheese, a cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup, milk and cookies).

That the vast majority of whites do not want to think of Indians as actual human beings is of no consequence to them.