Commentary: Recognize Indigenous Peoples Day
AP

Commentary: Recognize Indigenous Peoples Day

  • 0
{{featured_button_text}}

Recently, officials from Wisconsin's geographically largest county declared the second Monday in October, which this year falls on Oct. 14, Indigenous Peoples Day.

"We can't undo the atrocities that have been done against indigenous peoples," Tricia Zunker, associate justice of the Ho-Chunk Nation Supreme Court, told Marathon County officials as they adopted the resolution. "But we can recognize the beautiful cultures of the various tribal nations. The rich history, the different cultures, languages, government, customs, traditions. And we can appreciate that and recognize the resilience of the native people. We're still here."

Observed in place of Columbus Day, which traditionally honors colonist Christopher Columbus, Indigenous Peoples Day celebrates the survival of Native Americans and the significant roles they play today. Seven states (Alabama, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota and Vermont) and many cities and school districts now use this occasion to acknowledge the historical and cultural legacies of indigenous peoples.

Many of us are embarrassed by how little we know about Native Americans and their history of genocide, colonization, forced removals from their land, broken treaties, boarding schools and other forms of erasure or assimilation. We are also poorly informed about their survival and continued resilience.

At a recent educational event through The Nation magazine, Lakota educator Cheryl Kary described the importance of making indigenous people visible. Years ago, she said, she overheard her 8-year-old daughter being told by a classmate that "you can't be Indian because they are all dead." A generation later, she heard those same words spoken to her granddaughter.

The revitalization of native culture and languages has brought increasing visibility to indigenous people. Whatever our interests or passions, we can find unique contributions and perspectives that American Indians bring to conversations, fields and movements. Excellent recent books, David Treuer's "The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present," Nick Estes' "Our History is the Future," and Tommy Orange's novel, "There There," teach us about present and future issues through the lens of the past.

This year's traveling exhibition, "Hearts of Our People: Native American Women Artists," features individually named artists from named nations. So much of native art has been disrespectfully identified as representing an entire "culture" or "type" by collectors who falsely believed native cultures were vanishing.

It is also exciting to see indigenous people playing leadership roles, for example, in environmental and climate change activism and in anti-violence movements including Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Joy Harjo of the Muscogee Creek Nation has been named as the first Native American U.S. poet laureate. And Congress will soon have five Native Americans for the first time (including the appointment of a delegate from the Cherokee Nation, finally fulfilling an 1835 treaty commitment).

If we live in a city or state where Indigenous Peoples Day is officially recognized, we can help publicize and celebrate the day. If not, we can start working now to make sure our community officially acknowledges Indigenous Peoples Day by this time next year.

We can work to include land acknowledgements (whose land are we on?) in public spaces and events, and oppose Indian imagery as mascots or advertisements. And it's just a good time to promise ourselves that we will know a lot more about Native American issues by this time next year.

___

ABOUT THE WRITER

Nancy Worcester of Madison, Wisconsin, is an activist and professor emerita at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in gender and women's studies and continuing studies. This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.

0
0
0
0
0

Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

The Fourth Amendment prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures." But the Supreme Court has interpreted that protection pretty loosely when it comes to traffic stops, for which the police need only "reasonable suspicion" that the law is or has been broken. (The same indulgent standard applies when police stop and frisk a pedestrian.) Last week the justices heard arguments in a case that ...

President Trump has offered multiple lines of defense against House Democrats' allegations that he appeared to abuse the power of his office in his dealings with Ukraine's new government. Some are situational and temporary, such as his argument that the process was illegitimate because it hadn't been authorized by a vote of the full House (which it now has been). But one that we are likely to ...

When I crossed through Checkpoint Charlie from West Berlin to East Berlin nearly 30 years ago, the failures of former East Germany were immediately obvious. The grey unkempt landscape and dilapidated buildings looked as though that country hadn't been repaired since American and Soviet tanks faced off yards apart decades earlier in one of the most tense nuclear showdowns. While there, I ...

  • Updated

Even before his ill-advised mockery of President Trump's request for "a favor" from new Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) was seen by Republicans as blinded by bias against Trump. And now that Schiff is leading the initial phase of the House impeachment inquiry, he has become Exhibit A in the GOP argument that the whole thing ...

It's an all but foregone conclusion that the House of Representatives will impeach Donald Trump, and it is almost as certain that the Senate will not convict him. For those convinced of the president's venality, the latter prospect makes it imperative that the formal indictment in the House - the articles of impeachment - be detailed and all-encompassing. The articles' content, the exact way ...

Republicans have been engaging in some interesting contortions in conjuring a defense for President Donald Trump's attempt to get Ukrainian officials to investigate the family of political rival Joe Biden. The most plausible approach is one Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey signed on to last month, saying that he is keeping an open mind but that even if Trump asked Ukraine for a favor, the offense ...

A quiet Friday before the long Veterans Day weekend was apparently as good a time as any for the Trump administration to unveil its latest assault on immigrants: rules changes designed to deter those legally here from acquiring their rightly earned citizenship. The proposed new rules direct United States Citizenship and Immigrant Services, or USCIS - the arm of our immigration system that is ...

Thirty years ago, the fall of the Berlin Wall signaled the end of the Cold War. Where there had been two superpowers locked in a dangerous decades-long post-World War II rivalry, only one remained. A global order commonly but misleadingly referred to as bipolar gave way to a new era even more misleadingly referred to as unipolar. The onset of this unipolar order induced in Washington a mood of ...

Left without remedy, an injustice does not heal. It compounds. This is the fundamental principle behind a 2006 lawsuit filed by a coalition concerned for Maryland's four historically black colleges and universities: Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore. It alleges that the state funded largely white institutions ...

Recently, a group of civil rights advocates and the Compton Unified School District threatened to sue the University of California if the system did not eliminate the SAT and ACT in admissions requirements. The groups charge that the tests discriminate against underrepresented minority students, as well as low-income and disabled applicants. My son just took the PSAT along with more than 4 ...

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alert

Breaking News