Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day! Today especially we celebrate indigenous resilience and survival.
Today First Nations Development Institute, in partnership with Nonprofit Quarterly, kicked off an 8-week article series that will feature voices and perspectives from Native nonprofit leaders across the country. These articles will run every Monday through December in Nonprofit Quarterly. The article series kicks off with our own Raymond Foxworth, who shares his perspective on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the Native American nonpoint sector and philanthropy.
Forthcoming articles will feature the voices of the following talented individuals: Trisha Moquino (Keres Children’s Learning Center), Valerie Segrest (Native American Agriculture Fund), Olivia Roanhorse (Roanhorse Consulting), Sarah Kastelic (National Indian Child Welfare Association), Sarah Echohawk (American Indian Science and Engineering Society), Sherry Salway-Black (First Peoples Fund), Brooke Ammann (Waadookodaaing Language Institute) and Michael Robert (First Nations Development Institute).
Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Combating the Erasure of Native People
Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day, an opportunity to rebuke the celebration of settler colonialism. I am excited to kick off an eight-week article series that will run in Nonprofit Quarterly coordinated by First Nations Development Institute. This article series will highlight voices of respected Native American nonprofit leaders who will sound off on a variety of topics related to philanthropy and its interactions with the Native American nonprofit sector. This is a rare opportunity for a larger audience to hear and learn from Native people who have been leading the way in fighting for Native communities and advocating for greater philanthropic support for the innovative work taking place in Native communities across the United States.
It is apt that this article series kicks off on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. For those who don’t know, Indigenous Peoples’ Day is the celebration of indigenous survival in the face of a genocidal invasion that began in 1492 when an Italian sailor, Christopher Columbus, stumbled upon the Caribbean islands. His arrival set in motion the extermination of indigenous peoples across the Americas, including the Taíno Indians he originally contacted in the Caribbean, and a history of slavery, sexual violence, and more.
Although Columbus never stepped foot in North America, his presence in history has created a national narrative that has glorified a brutal process of American development and at the same time diminished Native people, their sovereignty, land and culture. Across the US today, Native people continue to challenge the romanticized and false views of Columbus, pushing for state and local governments to rename the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Currently eight states and numerous cities take part in celebrating indigenous survival through the formal recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This April, New Mexico became one of the most recent states to make this change.
The myth of Columbus is important for the narrative of America because his voyage set in motion a race for empire by European nations looking for new lands filled with gold, silver, and other precious stones and metals. It would not be until the early 1500s that the Spanish would stagger across the North American continent (into parts of the East Coast, Florida, and the Southwest) and the British (home to the future framers of the American Constitution) would not arrive in North America until the late 16th century, with the first permanent English settlement in Jamestown, Virginia not occurring until 1607. And so began a history of Native American genocide, land dispossession, and the disruption of Native lifeways on the North American continent. Scholars like Patrick Wolfe and many others have called this the origins of “settler colonialism”—that is, the occupation and control of indigenous lands and resources and the erasure of indigenous peoples.
At the same time, since 1492, indigenous people across the Americas have mounted a fearless defense of land and culture, fighting to maintain their lifeways in the face of a melting pot culture that has tried to erase indigenous peoples and identities from history.
Today, the resilience of Native people and their fight to maintain their distinct identities, protect land and the environment, is present in the work taking place in the Native American nonprofit sector across the US. Indeed, “civil society” (or rather, indigenous society) in Native communities remains strong and vibrant.
Read the rest of this article here.