The Important Origins of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Mera Seifu, Cav Culture Editor

Indigenous refers to the native people of a land, which, in the US, includes over 500 different Native American tribes. According to the 2019 US Census Bureau, there are approximately 2.757 million Native Americans living across the United States, which is less than 1 percent of the population.

 

Since 1968, the US has been celebrating Columbus Day, a federal holiday, on the second Monday of October, to honor the anniversary of the Italian explorer’s arrival in the Americas. For decades, it’s been an ongoing debate as to whether or not this holiday should even be acknowledged considering its oppressive historical roots.

Cartoon By Vy Nguyen

The numerous debates and protests that took place eventually caught the attention of millions of Americans, including government officials. Just recently, President Joe Biden addressed America’s broken promise of “equality and opportunity for all people,” especially for Indigenous people. Through a briefing in the White House, Biden acknowledged that “federal policies [have] systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and Native cultures” and commemorated the strength and resilience of Indigenous people, with the federal office committing to “[support] a new, brighter future of promises and equity for Tribal Nations.”

 

Although this didn’t lead to the removal of Columbus Day, on October 8, 2021, Biden issued a proclamation naming October 11 Indigenous People’s day, a day to honor generations of Native Americans, their contributions, history and diverse culture. According to the New York Times, “the government declared it to be celebrated the second Monday of each October.” Americans have taken to social media to celebrate this holiday and educate others as well.

 

Indigenous groups have long contributed to the growth of America as a nation- from the food we eat to many of the everyday products we use. They are healthcare providers, educators, entrepreneurs, social workers, activists- a vital part of our nation. As new generations of indigenous communities continue to preserve their culture, we can support them by raising awareness through voicing current issues and continuing to educate ourselves.