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Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Everything To Know About the Holiday Largely Replacing Columbus Day

Learn what it is, when it is and why there's a growing movement to celebrate it.

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Indigenous Peoples' Day has been touted as a replacement for Columbus Day for decades, but the movement never got much traction on a nationwide scale. Now, however, with increased awareness of colonizers' atrocities against Native Americans and Indigenous People of what eventually became the United States, Indigenous Peoples' Day has seen a groundbreaking amount of support. Here's what you need to know about Indigenous Peoples' Day and why it's so important and why many feel that the man credited with discovering America may deserve to be stripped of his celebratory day.

What is the history of Columbus Day?

We all remember the old rhyme: "In the year 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue." That much is true. But a lot of the other "history" surrounding Columbus is actually pretty inaccurate: He didn't discover America (and never even landed in North America), and most people already believed the Earth was round.

Columbus Day was first celebrated in New York City in 1792 to mark the 300th anniversary of his arrival and to celebrate Italian-American heritage, but it wasn't until the Knights of Columbus pressured then-president Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937 that Oct. 12 actually became a national holiday. In 1972, then President Richard Nixon changed the holiday to the second Monday in October.

Why is Columbus Day controversial?

Here comes the history lesson that many American schools gloss over: Christopher Columbus committed serious atrocities against the native and indigenous people in the Caribbean, as well as against Spanish colonists in the area. A brief list of them can be found here, but be warned: It's not for the faint of heart. In short, he enslaved and committed genocide against indigenous peoples, enabled and encouraged the rape of women and girls, and introduced the Western slave trade to the region ... and that doesn't even adequately describe how horrific he truly was.

Columbus' true history, added to the fact that Italian Americans are no longer marginalized—but native and indigenous peoples are—it's no wonder many are seeking to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day.

What is Indigenous Peoples' Day?

Indigenous Peoples' Day is a day to recognize indigenous people and the contributions they've made to history, as well as to mourn those lost to genocide and Western colonization—and to remember that Native Americans were actually here long before European settlers showed up on our shores. In 1977, the United Nations International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas proposed that Indigenous Peoples Day replace Columbus Day.

When is Indigenous Peoples' Day?

Indigenous Peoples' Day is recognized on the same day as Columbus Day each year, the second Monday in October. This year, Indigenous Peoples' Day will be celebrated on Monday, October 9, 2023. 

How is Indigenous Peoples' Day celebrated?

Indigenous Peoples' Day is more a day of recognition and mourning than of outright celebration. Great ways to commemorate Indigenous Peoples' Day are to educate yourself and others on Indigenous and Native American culture, and their contributions and history.

You can also contribute to charities and causes that support indigenous people. Good options include:

  1. American Indian College Fund provides scholarships for Native American students.

  2. American Indian Policy Center provides government leaders and policymakers with accurate legal and historical information.

  3. American Indigenous Business Leaders support the education and development of indigenous-owned businesses.

  4. Association of American Indian Affairs provides aid in drafting integral legislation for indigenous people, including the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and the Tribal Governmental Tax Status Act and the Indian Child Welfare Act.

  5. First Nations Development Institute supports economic development and education for Native communities.

  6. Native American Heritage Association provides financial aid to those in need living on reservations in South Dakota.

  7. Native American Rights Fund fights to preserve Native American rights and tribal resources.

  8. National Indian Child Care Association provides tribal child care and early childhood programs.

  9. Partnerships with Native Americans aid those living in poverty on reservations.

  10. Women Empowering Women for Indigenous Nations provides networking, professional and career opportunities for Native American women.

Which states celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day?

South Dakota was the first state to recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day in 1990, while individual cities have had their own official celebrations for decades. The following states all recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day:

  1. Alabama

  2. Alaska

  3. Hawaii

  4. Idaho

  5. Maine

  6. Michigan

  7. Minnesota

  8. New Mexico

  9. North Carolina

  10. Oklahoma

  11. Oregon

  12. South Dakota

  13. Texas

  14. Vermont

  15. Washington, D.C.

  16. Wisconsin

America was built on the backs of indigenous people.

Learn which state names were inspired or lifted from Native Americans.

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An Inclusive American Democracy: Truth, Transformation, and a Vigilant Commitment to Justice for All

By Rev. Dr. L. Rita Dixon, A Board Member of Urban Missiology and Teaching Elder of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

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Introduction

It is my hope that American Democracy will always be in a state of becoming …becoming more inclusive and welcoming of America’s growing diversity in such categories as race/ethnicity, age, class, gender and sexual orientations, marriage, ... an inclusive democracy with justice for all. This will require a lot of growth and commitment for “we the people.” It will require more of us to increase our capacity to care about justice for individuals and groups whose realities we do not understand.  It will take more of us to create and sustain an American Democracy with equity (according to the needs of each) for all of us. Leaders alone cannot do it

Until Donald Trump appeared on the scene in the 2016 Presidential election campaign, I had not thought of Democracy as being in crisis. I was still celebrating eight years of the first Black President, Barack Obama. To me, this was proof that at last American Democracy was working for African Americans. Little did I know that what seemed like progress for me and a majority of Americans, was carnage, decline, or a destruction of Democracy for at least a third or more Americans. So much so that they wanted to destroy it.

During my lifetime I have seen major changes in America’s Democracy, becoming more and more inclusive of America’s revealed diversity because of the unrelenting work of people who were vigilantly committed to justice for all. They are my mentors. Therefore, I am growing my commitment, understanding and advocacy for guarding and strengthening justice for all in our American Democracy, knowing that there will always be those who disagree and working in opposition to my desired outcome.

 I was not political during my college years but was keenly aware of people around me advocating for integrated public schools, for voting rights and for the full civil rights of African Americans. After college I became engaged politically during the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. I walked on picket lines for my right to eat in public restaurants, advocated for my right to vote, and my right to use restrooms and water fountains of my choice. I knew a lot about my rights from a democratic government but little about my responsibility to keep one. President Trump changed my outlook. Until his term in office, I was not aware of democracy’s fragility. President Trump gave me an awakening that continues to unfold.

In this article I share a brief overview of the growing crisis of American Democracy as I understand it mainly from watching the news and from the televised hearings presented by the House Select Committee. My intention is to heighten the awareness of ordinary citizens who, like me, may have a low awareness of our Democracy’s requirement. I also want to encourage us to use our gifts to guard and strengthen it to be more inclusive with justice for all. This is not an easy call for any of us but we have a great legacy from those who have given their lives for the rights, privileges, and freedoms that our Democracy currently allow.

I use the excellent resource that we have in the Final Report of the January 6th House Select Committee to present some statements from former Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Thompson and Vice Chair Cheney. First, let’s take a quick look at my take on recent history to provide some context for the discussion that follows.

Recent History: The 2016 Election Campaign through the 2022 Midterm Elections

 

I have followed closely former President Donald Trump’s leadership of the Republican Party towards an affinity for dictators and authoritarian rule from the time he emerged on the public scene as a candidate for President in the 2016 election. He campaigned under the slogan, “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) and to the surprise of many, he won. Even during that campaign, he said that if he did not win, the election was rigged. The seeds to undermining Democracy through the election process were already deep within his MAGA agenda.

President Trump’s habitual tendencies toward a “strong man” confrontational style, support of a White Supremacy ideology, tolerance for racial discrimination, and disrespect for women, gay people, disabled people and persons who were prisoners of war were shocking to say the least. His open friendship with dictators, expressed proclivity for violence and lack of respect for democratic norms became early signs of a more serious agenda. He was impeached twice during his one term in the White House, the first for abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The second for incitement of an insurrection.

During his term President Trump’s expressed values quickly became the revealed values of many Republicans. The leadership of the Republican Party quickly coalesced under the MAGA agenda. They created a MAGA movement which is openly opposed to an inclusive Democracy with justice for all. The former President has not yet acknowledged that he lost the 2020 election. Thus, there has been no peaceful transfer of power to President Joe Biden. The MAGA Republicans adopted President Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen even though all election Officials of both parties and several courts say that the election was fair and there was no widespread fraud.

The MAGA members are expert public liars, disinformation and conspiracy spreaders, election deniers, deniers of the facts of history, and pushers of a distorted understanding of Critical Race Theory as well as good at bending the law and facts to fit their own narrative. Their apparent intention is to create their own reality in order to to keep citizens confused and unable to recognize truth. These continue to be major weapons against democracy.

American Democracy barely survived MAGA’s almost successful attempts to dismantle it during the 2020 election campaign. According to the Select Committee hearings President Trump led election deniers in a seven-pronged planned attempt to keep President Trump in office. It started long before the election and ended in a January 6, 2021 insurrection on the Capital of the United States. Their assault on Democracy continued through 2022 and into 2023 through various forms of political activity. We can celebrate Democracy’s narrow victory in the November 2022 midterm elections, but not too long because it is still in dire danger.

The Forewords From the House Select Committee Final Report

The United States House Select Bipartisan Committee was formed on July1, 2021 to investigate the January 6th insurrection. It was charged with investigating the facts, circumstances and causes that led to this domestic terror attack on the Capitol, the Congress and the Constitution. They held six public hearings in June of 2022, two in July, one in October and one in December. The Committee issued its final 845-page report on December 22, 2022, three days before Christmas. The report provides eight chapters of details on the attack of our Democracy. The Final Report of the Select Committee can be accessed by anyone for free by inserting jan6th.house.gov in your search engine.

Many citizens, like me, are more than familiar with many of the details of the report because they have followed them through many hours of daily news sources and saw the ten televised committee hearings. I have not read the final report but the creative listing of the eight chapters in the table of content gives excellent pointers to the content of each chapter. The chapter titles caught my attention first because they repeat familiar phrases that I had internalizing from so many news sources over the past 7 years.  I highly recommend that the reader begin with the Final Report’s table of contents. It is well done! We can tackle the report one chapter at a time. My sense is each chapter will read like a novel or a mystery story.

The Report begins with three foreword statements of varying lengths, followed by the Executive Summary of almost 200 pages. It contains the Referrals to the U.S. Department of Justice Special Counsel and House Ethics Committee. I copied the forewords and share with you select paragraphs and sentences that particularly speak to me.

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

This is a one-page statement in the Final Report. The following paragraphs stand out for me.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to Chairman Bennie Thompson, Vice Chair Liz Cheney, the patriotic Members of Congress and dedicated staff—who devoted themselves to this investigation, to uncovering the truth and to writing a report that is a “Roadmap for Justice”

“The Select Committee…has succeeded in bringing clarity and demonstrating with painstaking details the fragility of our Democracy. Above all, the work of the Select Committee underscores that our democratic institutions are only as strong as the commitment of those who are entrusted with their care.”

“As the Select Committee concludes its work, their words must be a clarion call to all Americans: to vigilantly guard our Democracy and give our vote to those dutiful in their defense of our constitution”

My Reflections

 

I join Speaker Pelosi in giving heartfelt gratitude to the Select Committee for the great job they did on shedding light on some of the mysteries of the Trump led MAGA activities. The hearings were excellent, awakening much of the American public who appeared to be unaware of the danger we faced. Is this Report a roadmap to justice? We will see.

I do believe that this committee brought truth to a world of lies and conspiracy theories. They did a great job of informing the American public by letting us hear from the witnesses who were almost entirely Republicans, many from former President Trump’s inner circle. It was hard to say “a Democratic witch hunt” after hearing the testimonies of Trump’s own Staff and Republican leaders. During the ten hearing, we heard them reveal some of the inner secrets of Trump and his allies. We saw many courageous Trump staff members tell the truth, in spite of his attempt to bribe them to lie.

Chairman Bennie G. Thompson.

 This is a 5-page statement in the Final Report. The following paragraphs and sentences caught my attention.

“I have been a Member of the House for nearly 30 years. In that time, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t feel a profound sense of duty and responsibility to the men and women who sent me to Congress to be their voice. After all, I am from a part of the country where, in my lifetime, Black people were excluded entirely from political processes. Jim Crow laws prevented my father from registering to vote, and tragically during his life, he never cast a vote.”

“However, that long struggle to overcome oppression and secure basic civil and human rights continues to be my highest priority. I am always mindful of the journey that brought me to Washington as a member of congress to be the voice of the men and women of Mississippi. …Additionally, I constantly think about the ongoing struggle to ensure justice and equality for all American”.

“The failure of Trump’s plan was not assured. To the contrary, Trump’s plan was successful at several turns. When his scheme to stay in power through political pressure hit roadblocks, he relentlessly pushed ahead with a parallel plan: summoning a mob to gather in Washington, DC on January 6th, promising things “will be wild”

“But preventing another January 6th will require a broader sort of Accountability. Ultimately, the American People chart the course for our country’s future. …If this Select Committee has accomplished one thing, I hope it has shed light on how dangerous it would be to empower anyone whose desire for authority comes before their commitment to American Democracy and the Constitution.”

“I believe most Americans will turn their backs on those enemies of Democracy”

“But some will rally to the side of the election deniers, and when I think about who some of those people are, it troubles me deep inside. White supremacists. Violent extremist. Groups that subscribe to racism, antisemitism, and violent conspiracy theories; those who would march through the halls of the Capitol waving the Confederate battle flag.”

“We can never surrender to democracy’s enemies…We can never go backward in the progress we have made through the sacrifice and dedication of true patriots. We can never and will never relent in our pursuit of a more perfect union, with liberty and Justice for all Americans.”

My Reflections

I resonate with Chairman Thompson’s story. It also reflects my socialization in Georgia during the 1930’s through to the present. We cannot allow the MAGA conspiracy spreaders and history deniers minimize the realities of others, both historical and present, in order to fit the false narrative, they want to tell their children. So many Americans of all races, gender, sexual orientations and ages (remember the children, the fire hoses and the dogs of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement) have given their lives to make American Democracy be more just for all of us.

American Democracy has evolved, not on its own, to its current state and we will continue to evolve it, hopefully, toward justice for all. With the midterm elections of 2022 still fresh in our memory, too many election deniers have seats in the 118th Congress. MAGA Republicans have the majority in the House of Representatives for the next two years. So, I agree with Chairman Thompson‘s statement “Trump’s plan was successful at several turns.” I wish I shared his confidence that “the majority of American people will turn their backs on the enemies of democracy” and that “we can never go backward in the progress we have made through the sacrifice and dedication of true patriots.” We must never forget that every democratic freedom we enjoy today was fought for by someone. We all stand on the shoulders of many. At the same time there are powerful forces working to go back.

Vice Chair Liz Cheney.

This is a four-page statement in the Final Report.

“In our work over the last 18 months, the Select committee has recognized our obligation to do everything we can to ensure this never happens again. At the outset of our investigation, we recognized that tens of millions of Americans had been persuaded by President Trump that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen by overwhelming fraud. We always knew that this was flatly false and that dozens of state and federal judges had addressed and resolved all manner of allegations about the election. Our legal system functioned as it should, but our President would not accept the outcome.”

“What most of the public did not know before our investigation is this: Donald Trump’s own campaign officials told him early on that his claim of election fraud was false. Donald Trump’s senior Justice Department officials—each appointed by Donald Trump himself---investigated the allegations and told him repeatedly that his fraud claims were false. Donald Trump’s White House lawyers also told him his fraud claims were false. From the beginning, Donald Trump’s fraud allegations were concocted nonsense, designed to prey upon the patriotism of millions of men and women who love our country.”

“In presenting all of the information in our hearings, we decided that the vast majority of our witnesses needed to be Republicans. They were. We presented evidence from two former Trump Administration Attorneys General, a former White House Counsel, many former Trump-appointed White House, Justice Department, and Trump Campaign staff, a respected former conservative judge, the former Secretary of Labor, and many others.”

“The late Charles Krauthammer wrote, ‘the lesson of our history is that the task of merely maintaining strong and sturdy the structures of a constitutional order is unending, the continuing and ceaseless work of every generation.’ This task is unending because democracy can be fragile and our institutions do not defend themselves.”

“The history of our time will show that the bravery of a handful of Americans, doing their duty, saved us from an even more grave Constitutional Crisis. Elected officials, election workers, and public servants stood against Donald Trump’s corrupt pressure. Many of our witnesses showed selfless patriotism and their words and courage will be remembered.”

“The brave men and women of the Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police and all the other law enforcement officers who fought to defend us that day undoubtedly saved lives and our democracy.

“The brave men and women of the Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police and all the other law enforcement officers who fought to defend us that day undoubtedly saved lives and our democracy.

My Reflections

Vice Chair Cheney and the other Republican on the Select Committee, Representative Adam Kinzinger paid a high price for being on the Select Committee. They were courageous and served passionately. I admire and respect their courage.

My socialization as a Southern African American makes it difficult for me to understand that tens of millions of Americans believed President Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen. Most African American that I know never believed the lie. We knew his character, his behavior and his ego. We watched him during the 2016 campaign remove his Republican competitors one after another by belittling and branding them, often with false information; We watched him lie his way through the pandemic; we saw his cruelty to the children at the border and we heard him say “there was bravery on both sides” when the Far-Right Extremists and White Nationalists rallied in Charlottesville, VA. We knew who President Trump was and what he was capable of. We just didn’t know how fragile democracy was and that he could seemingly get away with his assault.

Vice Chair Cheney’s statement that many Americans believed President Trump reminded me that the diversity of American citizens live in different realities. Many Americans would find it easy to believe President Trump. He was a rich White male movie star who presented himself as America’s Strong Man who was the only one who could fix whatever was wrong. Too many of us romanticize the strong male who can fix everything image.

The unending responsibility for guarding our fragile democracy belongs to every American. Mrs. Coretta Scott King reminded us that every generation would have to fight for justice anew. Those who were courageous enough to be truthful witnesses in the face of Trump’s cruelty have set a good example for what the fight includes. Truth matters!

Truth, Transformation and a Commitment to Justice for All

“Tell the truth and shame the devil” was a common and often repeated teaching in my childhood African American community. My mother always said “If you tell one lie, you will have to tell another to back it up, then another…then you will lose touch with reality and start to believe your own lies.” I wonder if that is what happened to Mr. Trump and some of the MAGA leaders.  On January 21, 2021 an Independent News source said that Former President Trump averaged 21 lies a day and more than 30,000 while he was in the White House. A New York Times opinion article said he was trying to create an Alternate Reality in which facts do not matter.

 Fact-based truth is a foundation of justice in any democratic country. It has the incredible power to builds trust and respect for human dignity. Lies destroy and disrespect humanity. During the hearings I was inspired by and grateful to the brave people from Trump’s inner circle telling the truth about what they had witnessed or heard to the Jan.6 Select Committee. At least one of the witnesses said that her conscious pushed her to be truthful. She had to make a choice in order to be at peace. Her authenticity opened, warmed and encouraged my heart.

Senator Warnock said in his 2022 victory speech “…all of us have a choice to make. Will we continue to divide, distract, and dishonor one another or will we love our neighbor as ourselves?” In this same speech he quoted Dr. Martin Luther King who said about humanity, “We are caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Beyond fact-based truth, but not unrelated, is Ultimate Truth which is also a Greater Love that I call God, humanity’s Divine Parent. You, the reader, may use different language to describe your Spiritual Source or you may not believe in Greater Source. Use whatever personal path you walk for inner growth and transformation. I turn to God, Ultimate Truth, to empower me expand my circle of acceptance, respect, and hopefully love for those I do not understand, find it difficult to respect, and pray to genuinely want the same wellbeing, freedom and justice for them that I want for myself. As my circle of caring slowly expand to be more inclusive I call that process transformation.

Most of us are more tribal than we think. We are caught in a socialized perception of reality that is very narrow. This makes it difficult for us to see the realities of groups or even individuals that differ from us. This often causes us to dishonor, disrespect, or minimize through our words, and actions people’s realities we don’t understand. We all must make a choice to expand our circle of caring about justice for others, especially those whose realities are very, very different from our own. They may or may not be our neighbor. We must want for everyone the freedom, dignity, and justice we want for ourselves. It will require a vigilant commitment to justice for all.

Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Thompson and Vice Chair Cheney made statements about the important role that America’s citizen must play in defending and strengthening our Democracy. Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt says in their book, “How Democracies Die” the following

“Our constitutional system, while older and more robust than any in history, is vulnerable to the same pathologies that have killed democracy elsewhere. Ultimately then American Democracy depends on us---the citizens of the United States. No single political leader can end a democracy; no single leader can rescue one, either. Democracy is a shared enterprise. Its fate depends on all of us.

My hope and prayer in writing and sharing this article is that it will encourage those who are already engaged to keep working to strengthen our Democracy to serves a diverse American population always committed to justice for all. I also hope it will motivate others to become more vigilant in monitoring the election processes, leaders and laws at every level of government--- local, state and federal. This requires being informed which can be time demanding, requiring some organizing and sharing with affinity groups. We must never give our vote to those who are trying to destroy Democracy, deny Black History and others realities, and minimize human freedom and dignity. This is a learning curve for most of us, a calling that will grow us to be greater than we are. Being a vigilant advocate for justice for all is a sacred commitment.

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