Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a holiday that celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures. On October 8, 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden became the first U.S. President to formally recognize the holiday, by signing a presidential proclamation declaring October 11 to be a national holiday – Wikipedia
We were taught something else in school, one version or another of the poem credited to Jean Marzolo that began:
In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.
Later we learned that Columbus wasn’t a nice guy, and yet, we kept giving him credit for discovering a continent where there were might have been as many as ten to 50 million people living in 600 tribes.
When students asked teachers how somebody could discover a place that was already settled, the answer was that savages don’t count. The nation bought into that absurd notion for years. In fact people still believe it. Sure, they’re giving up on Columbus in favor of, say–the Vikings even though that still begs the question of the continent’s residents whenever the first Europeans showed up.
“We” are slowly trying to clean up our act, at least in terms of politically correct rhetoric. Real change is another matter that’s slower than Christmas. Celebrating this day in honor of the people who lived here when “we” showed up and took over North America by force is progress of a sort. It falls short of what we need to do.
First, I think we should be honest about what we did, what the proud words “manifest destiny” meant to the people in our way. Most of the world was conquered over and over by somebody, and trying to return boundaries to what they were 100, 1000, or 10,000 years ago sounds like a recipe for chaos.
Second, we need to look at Indigenous Peoples as they are now rather than romanticizing them as they were several hundrfed years ago. We, those of us of European extraction, are not who we were in the 1600s, 1700s, 1800s, and 1900s and neither are Native Americans. Most of us of European extraction would take offense if we were portayed as no more advanced then we were many generations ago, and yet, we keep “celebrating” Native Americans as a people purportedly stuck in the past.
Third, we need to legalize in every possible way our statements that reservations are sovereign Indian Nations that owe no allegiance to the patriarchal “Great White Father” in Washington. They are just as sovereign as Canada and Mexico and their rights extend a lot farther than being able to run gambling casinos. The reservations need the power of the states and the voting rights that go along with that power.
Doing such things will create a mess and yet that will be positive progress.
Malcolm R. Campbell
Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing
4 thoughts on “Happy Indigenous People’s Day”
Thanks for writing and sharing this blog post. I am particularly struck by your sentence about how it might not be accurate or respectful to say that someone discovered “a continent where there were might have been as many as ten to 50 million people living in 600 tribes.” The way that the dominant culture has consistently downplayed, minimized or overlooked indigenous cultures and indigenous achievements and indigenous wisdom and indigenous history (so that we could feel less guilty about stealing almost all of their land) reminds me of how we also overlook or downplay or deny how sentient, loving, empathetic and smart many animals are so that we can feel more comfortable eating them. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Strange the way our minds make categories and boundaries and judgements about who is valued/valuable/to be respected and who is not…
I appreciate your comments. I guess we feel power when we downplay other cultures and justify our patriarchy over them. I’m not smart enough to know how to “fix” this, but I wish we would try harder to find realistic solutions.
“Third, we need to legalize in every possible way our statements that reservations are sovereign Indian Nations that owe no allegiance to the patriarchal “Great White Father” in Washington. They are just as sovereign as Canada and Mexico and their rights extend a lot farther than being able to run gambling casinos. The reservations need the power of the states and the voting rights that go along with that power.”
That would be such a great step forward. Is it fair to say that Native Americans perceive that they revere the land more than the immigrant population does, with its shale gas and fracking, logging, over-fishing, factory farming et al? The tracts of land should be the beautiful and most bountiful bits. Rewilding is going to become increasingly important. There are enclaves in South Africa, aren’t there? Lesotho is certainly one. Monaco and Andorra, in Europe, are others. What a wonderful and long overdue gesture to the Native American population that would be.
I’m not a fan of messing up the land whether it’s fracking or factories. Returning land to its natural state would be a gift to natives and nonnatives alike.
Comments are closed.