Indigenous Peoples Day is gradually replacing Columbus Day, and we as a culture are here for it. In fact, we have been for a while. It is a day of remembrance, a day to honor the ancestors and uplift the original people who traveled this land.
It is entirely appropriate – in this time of post-Floyd racial calculation and acceptance of a shameful whitewashed American history and a legacy of genocide – that people renegotiate their relationship with America. This process includes a rejection of the symbols and monuments of colonialism, theft, rape, looting and mass murder.
This is probably the reason why the president Joe biden recently rolled back Trump-era environmental protection cuts to Indigenous sacred spaces and signed a proclamation marking the first time a president has recognized Indigenous Peoples Day as a national commemoration.
“Our country was designed on a promise of equality and opportunity for all – a promise that, despite the extraordinary progress we have made over the years, we have never fully delivered,” the report reads. proclamation of Biden. âThis is especially true when it comes to defending the rights and dignity of the indigenous peoples who were here long before the colonization of the Americas began. “
Since its inception, Columbus Day has been problematic at best – a celebration in honor of white supremacy, to celebrate a man who “discovered” a land that had been inhabited by ancient civilizations for 23,000 years. The “discovery” of Christopher Columbus resulted in centuries of indigenous genocide, African slavery, and global colonization. Let’s talk frankly here. It was the holiday that made Italians white and truly American – having been seen as an inferior race facing discrimination and even lynching – when there are plenty of other Italians worthy of honor.
And remember the armed white vigilantes who guarded the statue of Christopher Columbus in the Marconi Plaza in Philadelphia when blacks and racial justice activists demanded its removal. When armed white supremacist thugs are Columbus’ last line of defense, what else do you need to know about Columbus? As statues of Columbus, Confederate terrorists, slavers and colonizers are overthrown and beheaded – from Boston, Massachusetts to Bristol, England, it is not enough to declare what we abhor. The question is: what do we want to defend and who do we hope to raise? What are we building and who are we supporting?
With more than a dozen states and the District of Columbia celebrating the alternative to Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples Day is a perfect example of reclaiming history and focusing the lives of those who are. often made invisible.
And losing millions of lives, seeing your lands dispossessed, your children kidnapped and placed in boarding schools designed to kill Indian language and culture – that is enough to make you invisible to mainstream white society. After all, sports team mascots poking fun at natives are still alive today, with the Washington football team changing its name racistically last year after corporate sponsor FedEx called for the change. Society behaves as if indigenous peoples no longer exist, or as if they don’t care.
Indigenous Peoples Day is a concept that should resonate with blacks. Blacks are among the indigenous peoples of the Americas and around the world, and it has a long history. As the late Rutgers University scholar Ivan Van Sertima We have learned that the African presence in the âNew Worldâ predates Columbus by several centuries.
Honoring the culture and history of Indigenous peoples means honoring ancestors. “One thing that differentiates Native Americans from whites is that most of us consider our ancestors as close as our families today.” tweeted native american lawyer Brett Chapman, whose parent Standing Bear was the first Native American to gain civil rights in the United States âI see all the injustice done to my ancestors as Standing Bear and I know that is something my family has suffered. It’s more visceral for aboriginals.
Chapman recalled what his great-great-great-grandfather Chef Aigle Blanc told a racist southern Alabama church in 1883: “He said they were selfish, he was not a Christian, and Native Americans don’t believe in Hell because Hell is, in fact, living in America with whites.
But Indigenous Peoples Day is more than just a memory of history. Our very survival as a planet depends on what the ancestors did as stewards of the earth who protected the Earth for thousands and thousands of years, until the white man exhausted the earth. , resources and people – all for profit.
Indigenous communities hold more than half of the world’s land, with 5% of the world’s population protecting 80% of the world’s biodiversity. Communities have legal rights to only a small fraction of this land and are threatened. Community and indigenous lands have lower rates of deforestation and store a quarter of the world’s carbon stock, making these lands crucial in tackling climate change. And the knowledge that indigenous peoples have acquired over the centuries helps us understand climate change.
That is why we must salute Indigenous Peoples Day. If we are to know where we are going, we must understand and honor the people who came before us and on whose land we live.
David A. Love
The black commentator