The Significance of Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day

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Growing up I always remember celebrating Christopher Columbus day not knowing the actuality of the day and why we shouldn’t have been celebrating him. Teachers would always make us draw pictures of Christopher Columbus like he had done America well. 

Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day which is a day we celebrate and honor Native American culture and history. On October 8th,  President Joe Biden signed a presidential proclamation declaring October 11th to be a national holiday. Biden said  “For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures. Today, we recognize Indigenous peoples’ resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact that they have made on every aspect of American society.”

When I was younger I never really understood the significance of celebrating Christopher Columbus. Coming from a Native American family, I was always told that Christopher Columbus was not a hero. So growing up I was always curious on why we would celebrate him if he had been a hero in any way. Why does he deserve a day to be honored? Native Americans protested this day for honoring a man who had enabled their colonization and forced assimilation.

In America, Native American culture is silenced and not spoken about. In the school curriculum we are not taught about what Native American people have been through and the harsh realities of people taking our land. I remember only dedicating a couple days in school to learn about Native American history which ultimately was false information we were given through our textbook to suppress oppression.

My family comes from Red Lake which is a reservation in northern Minnesota. Growing up my mom would always tell stories about her and her siblings growing up on the reservation and how different it is from growing up in the city. We would often go visit the reservation and see my grandma who has lived on the reservation her entire life. While visiting the reservation I always saw how connected people were and how culture played a big part in the community. 

My favorite memory comes from me being able to dance in a powwow with my cousins when I was about eight years old. Powwows are social gatherings within a community/reservation for people to meet and dance, sing, socialize, and honor their cultures. The main attraction at a powwow is the performances from dancers and singers, they bring so much honor and emotion through their voices and dances. 

 

Throughout my life, my mom has always tried to make me and my siblings connected to our Native American heritage but when I turned 18 is really when I felt most connected. 

When I was 18 I decided to enroll, which means filling out an application to become a member of the reservation and to be accepted you have to have a certain amount of Native American ancestry. When someone becomes an enrolled member they’re able to receive the benefits that they are entitled to. These benefits are distributed by US government agencies that aid Native American people in many different forms. This is because of the history of Native American culture and how natives had a lot of things taken away from them. The significance I felt when I received that paper in the mail that approved my application to be a registered member, felt amazing. At that moment I felt more connected to my reservation than ever. 

Today marks the first official Indigenous Peoples Day, which feels long-awaited. I know many of us stopped celebrating Christopher Columbus Day a while ago but for Indigenous Peoples Day to be nationally recognized as a holiday, is very significant. Native Americans have been through so much and are still going through so much as a community and for today to be recognized as honoring our culture is amazing. 

Below are a few resources to learn more about Native American culture/history:

https://www.sutori.com/en/story/oppression-of-native-americans-throughout-history–rnV7NU1NMrqZy5uUAP8gSeqN 

https://networkadvocates.org/recommittoracialjustice/legacy/ 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3H32D8UEeU