Indigenous People's Day in the US
October 12 is generally recognized as the day that Americans and those in the “new world” celebrate Christopher Columbus’s landing and discovery of the Americas. For many, this day marks the beginning of the discovery era wherein Europeans began exploring these new found lands for riches and fame. It also marked the beginning of settlements in the world that eventually led to the development of the United States and the other counties of North America.
However, for many, Christopher Columbus is not a hero. Christopher Columbus is not a man who deserves to be honored yearly. For many, Christopher Columbus represents the beginning of a dark era in history. An era that included the enslaving and exploitation of millions of the indigenous people who had occupied the new world for centuries. It marks the beginning of the end of the Indigenous people’s cultures and livelihood. So instead of celebrating Christopher Columbus on Columbus Day, many choose to celebrate the Indigenous People of the World in an effort to give voice to the plights of these people’s.
Historical Origins of Indigenous People’s Day
The idea of replacing Columbus Day with a day celebrating Indigenous People was in 1977 in Geneva, Switzerland during a United Nations sponsored conference on discrimination against indigenous populations in the Americas. Fourteen years after the idea was floated, the City of Berkeley, California formally adopted and declared that October 12 would be a day to stand in “Solidarity with Indigenous People.” Berkeley’s formal declaration was in response to a movement growing in favor of recognizing indigenous peoples of the world.
The Movement Today
Since Berkeley’s Adoption of Indigenous People’s day a movement has formed to convince other cities and governments to also disregard Columbus Day in favor of the people who they claim Columbus abused. The purpose of this movement is to reveal historical truths about the exploitation of the indigenous people and to raise awareness to the problems indigenous people face today.
The City of Berkeley still holds one of the biggest Indigenous Day celebrations. On the Saturday closest to the traditional date of Columbus’ arrival in the new world, Berkeley hosts what is known as a Pow-Wow and Indian Market. The purpose is to celebrate the culture of indigenous peoples and to promote their continued survival. A Pow-Wow is simply an event where Native and Non-Native peoples meet to dance, sing and honor Native culture. The Pow-Wow in Berkeley every year draws numerous Native tribes from all across North America and is a great place to learn about Indian Culture first hand.
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