A Celebration of Indigenous Peoples

indigenous peoples dayA lot of folks work long and hard to make Indigenous Peoples’ Day happen every year. 

Some people don’t agree, (The Federalist, 10/9/2017). According to them, Native American tribes were savages who only did savage things to one another and to the white settlers. “Hardly worth celebrating,” they say.

Could we back off the white supremacy stance for just one day? Even ignoring the obvious point about white human savagery around the globe, (aka multinational corporations all mostly ran by white men), the challenge here is to get folks to be open to a shift in cultural perspective.

Try this: Columbus didn’t discover America, he discovered a place Italians were ignorant about, a place where indigenous people had been living for thousands of years. He also enslaved and tortured the natives as most colonists did. Captain Cook didn’t discover Hawaii or Australia or Newfoundland. He discovered places the British people had not known about, places that had had indigenous populations for centuries.

Sorry, politicians, but you don’t get to decide what becomes of this day or wether or not it should be a national holiday replacing Columbus Day. Indigenous People get to say, totally without your input, what they want/need to make of this day, and what they want the rest of us to make of this day.

The possibilities are profound and inexhaustible. Having this one day of the year to celebrate indigenous people is like having one Women’s Day or one Civil Rights Day a year. Honing the focus is a preposterous task. It could be:

  • A celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ language, art, music, literature, culture.
  • A forum on reforming school curriculum vis a vis the indigenous population
  • A day of historical and cultural awareness activities – Polynesian, Alaskan, Native American
  • A day of political action groups, preparing a nation-wide agenda for social justice, environmental justice and political participation
  • A day of honoring the ancestors with storytelling and ceremonies
  • A day of fund raising – to address urgent causes, such as the missing and feared dead indigenous women, the need for teen activity centers or solar installations

It could be all or none of the above. It will be what indigenous people want it to be. Let’s take our cues from the ancestors, grandmothers, teachers, activists and civic leaders. Let’s not presume to know what it should be.

If white people want to have input on what Indigenous Peoples’ Day should focus on, let’s start with an examination of our contributions to the marginalization of indigenous people. Let’s have the courage to delve into topics like white fragility and white supremacy.

We could spend the day learning about the history of white colonization from other than a white perspective. Let’s learn all we can about modern-day colonization issues in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam by talking to the people who have called those places home for generations. How do native Hawaiians and Alaskans feel today about statehood?

We can become more informed about today’s indigenous rights issues. On Indigenous People’s Day every year, let’s develop a new appreciation for the contributions of indigenous people to the story of America.

By Susan Anderson via Living As Equals


Join the celebration honoring Water Protectors Oct 7th-8th in NYC. More info at Redhawkcouncil.org

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