Why It’s Time We All Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Next week on October 11th, 14 states and over 130 cities will celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. With the increasing urgency to speak truth to history and celebrate the Indigenous Peoples who have endured through centuries, the movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day is growing. And for good reason.

Moving on from the Myth

The truth is that Columbus Day celebrates a history that never existed. It’s a false narrative of Columbus’s brave exploration, when in actuality it was a conquering and enslavement of Indigenous Peoples for profit and power.

The celebration of Columbus suppresses an honest interpretation of a history in which vibrant Indigenous cultures thrived. Moreover, the perpetuation of the narrative of a heroic Columbus is a slap in the face to Indigenous Peoples’ throughout the Northern and Southern hemispheres and a continuance of historical trauma and genocide.

The movement to dispel the story of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, Columbus, and Columbus’ discovery of the “Americas” has been hard fought and long awaited. Tribal communities and organizations across the United States have battled with government entities to censure the commemoration of a known murderer and slave owner. Rooted in this movement is the need to recognize, acknowledge, and share the truth.

The Need for Proper Acknowledgement

We live in a society in which Native American Peoples are lumped into the “other” slice of just about every pie chart. This is not by accident. The system is rigged to maintain this order and to limit the political power of Indigenous Peoples now and in the future by keeping the dreams of their children small. This is easily done by robbing Indigenous Peoples of the accomplishments of their ancestors.

Indigenous Peoples are often disenfranchised or not even recognized at all. We all recall CNN referring to Native American voters as “something else.”

How do thousands of groups of people go unrecognized and forgotten? How does millennia get written out of history books, while a few centuries define a continent?

The continued erasure of Native peoples from national narrative is devastating. If we do not create a space for Indigenous Peoples to share their stories of resilience, we leave room to be written out of history books, we provide a backdrop in which unconcerned law enforcement acts with impunity to continue the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Women and Girls, we preserve the policies that openly discriminated against and tried to wipe out tribal communities, and we make space for people to tell stories that are not representative of the true inspiration of Native peoples.

It’s Time to Change the Narrative

Indeed, creating space for Indigenous Peoples to be celebrated has been a struggle in a colonizer society. But the good news is that, right now, the United States is at another pivotal time in its history, where Indigenous Peoples are once again being recognized and at the forefront of important conversations.

Important players like Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and director Sterlin Harjo are helping rewrite the negative narratives and create a seat at the table for Indigenous Peoples.

And, First Nations and other Native nonprofits are working diligently to generate robust narratives about Native values, ideas, contributions, relationships, and issues. We are supporting and revitalizing the stories that make us unique, and we are sharing accounts that give light to tribal communities and reinforce the knowledge and values that existed before contact.

We must teach the truth in our history books and acknowledge that there were great civilizations and complex societies that had working governments and advanced technology. We must provide different perspectives of the Indigenous ancestors who still inhabit our beautiful country today.

Celebrating a New Day

Being Indigenous today is an amazing feat and Indigenous people are here for a reason. We are here to remind the world that our beauty still lives on, and we will continue to survive and thrive. We live on through our stories and art, we live on in the land, we live on through our culture and traditions, we live on through our songs and prayers, and – most importantly – we live on through our children.

As the saying goes, “We do not inherit the earth from ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” – Chief Seattle

As we move forward as a society we are changing perspectives. Now is the time we teach a new narrative and share the stories of the peoples who first inhabited the “Americas” – the stories of survival, resilience, perseverance, and victory.

First Nations, as an Indigenous-led nonprofit, will continue to champion the movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. We will continue to help eliminate the celebration of genocide, trauma, and colonization, and move to replace this event everywhere with a true celebration of Indigenous ways of life, resiliency, ingenuity, tradition, and culture.

We hope you join us in the movement. Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day!