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Daily News Blog

11
Oct

Understanding U.S. History on Indigenous Peoples’ Day

(Beyond Pesticides, October 11, 2021) The National Museum of the American Indian, a part of the Smithsonian Institution, sits on the National Mall in Washington, DC and as a part of its history program is commemorating Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 11. This year, President Biden, while commemorating Columbus Day, issued a Presidential Proclamation commemorating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the first President to do so. The National Museum of the American Indian marks the day with an effort to teach the true history of the United States. This history is introduced on the Museum’s website with the following:

Unlearning Columbus Day Myths: Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day
“Many students learn the phrase, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”. But Columbus was not the first foreign explorer to land in the Americas. Neither he nor those that came before him discovered America—because Indigenous Peoples have populated the Western Hemisphere for tens of thousands of years. European contact resulted in devastating loss of life, disruption of tradition, and enormous loss of lands for Indigenous Peoples in the Americas. It is estimated that in the 130 years following first contact, Native America lost 95 percent of its population.”

“Indigenous Peoples of the Western Hemisphere immediately experienced enslavement and theft of resources by the explorers turned settlers. Colonies created by the Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch, and English grew throughout the Americas and increasingly encroached upon Native lives and lands. Warfare, enslavement, and forced relocation disrupted and altered the lives of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas. Celebrating Columbus and other explorers like him dismisses the devastating losses experienced by Indigenous Peoples of the Western Hemisphere in the past and the ongoing effects of colonialism today.”

“Indigenous Peoples are still here. Contemporary Native Americans have led numerous movements to advocate for their own rights. Native people continue to fight to maintain the integrity and viability of Indigenous societies. American Indian history is one of cultural persistence, creative adaptation, renewal, and resilience. Native Peoples, students, and allies are responsible for official celebrations of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in such states as Maine, Oregon, Louisiana, New Mexico, Iowa, and Washington, DC. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is celebrated on the second Monday of October and recognizes the resilience and diversity of Indigenous Peoples in the United States.”

“We promote including Indigenous perspectives, like those of the Taíno Peoples, to provide a more complete narrative when teaching about Columbus. We encourage students to advocate for Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a replacement for Columbus Day in their school, city, state, and beyond.”

Presidential Proclamation and Statement of the Secretary of Interior
The President’s proclamation says: “Our country was conceived on a promise of equality and opportunity for all people — a promise that, despite the extraordinary progress we have made through the years, we have never fully lived up to.  That is especially true when it comes to upholding the rights and dignity of the Indigenous people who were here long before colonization of the Americas began.  For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures.  Today, we recognize Indigenous peoples’ resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact that they have made on every aspect of American society.  We also recommit to supporting a new, brighter future of promise and equity for Tribal Nations — a future grounded in Tribal sovereignty and respect for the human rights of Indigenous people in the Americas and around the world.”

The President also used the occasion of Indigenous People’s Day to announce that he is restoring the original boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah. Two million acres had been stripped from the sites by the Trump administration. President Biden said that Bears Ears “is the first national monument in the country to be established at the request of federally recognized tribes. [It’s] a place of healing, a place of reverence, a sacred homeland of hundreds of generations of native peoples.” Secretary of Interior (and former U.S. Representative from New Mexico) Deb Haaland—and the first Native American to hold this position—said. “I am proud to stand with President Biden in restoring these monuments and fulfilling his commitment to the American people.” She continued, “On my visit to Utah, I had the distinct honor to speak with many people who care deeply about this land. The historical connection between Indigenous peoples and Bears Ears is undeniable; our Native American ancestors sustained themselves on the landscape since time immemorial and evidence of their rich lives is everywhere one looks. This living landscape must be protected so that all Americans have the profound opportunity to learn and cherish our history.”  

Source: Washington Post, Salt Lake Tribune

 

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