Indigenous People’s Day: A Brief Overview

Indigenous People’s Day: A Brief Overview

- By JJ

For a long time, the second Monday in October was celebrated as Columbus Day, honoring Italian explorer and conqueror Christopher Columbus. However, this holiday has been viewed by many as problematic, as Columbus was responsible for the death and spreading of disease among many Indigenous Americans, as well as the fact that the land he ‘discovered’ and ‘claimed’ was already occupied. In 1992, Berkeley, California instituted the holiday Indigenous People’s Day to counter-celebrate Columbus Day, following numerous protests and appeals to the government. Soon, other cities and states began to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day in lieu of Columbus Day, with 13 states to date commemorating this holiday.
 
What is Indigenous People’s Day?
    Indigenous People’s Day is a holiday that celebrates the original inhabitants of North America, instead of the man who ‘conquered’ it. Held on the same day as Columbus Day, it seeks to bring attention to those original Indigenous Americans, as well as the Indigenous Americans who are still here today. The holiday seeks to bring awareness to issues that still affect Indigenous Americans and encourages everyone to get involved and help.
    On this day, educators can share information to their students about the Native Americans’ culture and heritage. States, cities, and towns can spread awareness about the Indigenous American populations living here that still need help. It’s a day to remember the first inhabitants of North America, who underwent hardship due to European conquest and are still in need of our attention today.
 
How can we celebrate Indigenous People’s Day?
    One of the best things that we can do on Indigenous People’s Day is to inform ourselves. We should educate ourselves on Indigenous groups, especially those in our area. We should actively seek to dispel myths and misconceptions and start conversations with those around us. Look into activism that we can be a part of, to help fight for equal access to justice and health care for Indigenous Americans. We should help fight against discrimination and help bring awareness to stories from these communities that the mass media seems to overlook constantly.
    We can also help preserve Native American land. Deforestation around the world is increasing, especially in areas where Indigenous People live, such as the Amazon Rainforest. On this day, maybe we can look into activist groups that are fighting to protect Indigenous People’s right to their own land and consider getting involved or donating money to the cause. We should also remember to vote for politicians in our own areas who support Indigenous Americans’ causes.
    Consider shopping from Indigenous People’s companies and businesses. There are many Indigenous-owned small POC companies in need of support with amazing products, from jewelry to makeup to clothing and more. Simple internet searches will lead you to many amazing Indigenous-owned companies.
    Another great way to celebrate and inform yourself on Indigenous People’s Day is to read books by Indigenous authors. There are Indigenous authors in virtually every genre, from children’s books to adults.
    Finally, show your support by celebrating at a community-led Indigenous People’s Day event. Due to COVID, there are many virtual events instead of in-person. Showing your public support is important, as it could help lead to change. As mentioned earlier, Indigenous People’s Day is celebrated in 13 states. That means there are still 37 states that do not celebrate this holiday. By continuing to raise awareness about Indigenous People’s Day, and in turn raising awareness about the issues in Indigenous communities today, we can help spark change.
 
Happy Indigenous People’s Day!

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