Biden, first US president to proclaim Indigenous Peoples Day

Dylan smith

Monday marks, as is tradition, Columbus Day across the country. But it is also, for the first time ever, Indigenous Peoples Day, following President Joe Biden’s national proclamation.

Indigenous Peoples Day has been encouraged for years by those who say that the legacy of the genocide of Columbus against the indigenous peoples of the Americas should not be celebrated.

Although it has been declared by various local governments, Biden’s proclamation of Monday as the two public holidays is the first time that a US president has defined Indigenous Peoples Day as a national celebration.

“Our country was designed on a promise of equality and opportunity for all – a promise that, despite the extraordinary progress we have made over the years, we have never fully delivered,” said Biden. “This is especially true when it comes to defending the rights and dignity of the indigenous peoples who were here long before the colonization of the Americas began. For generations, federal policies have systematically sought to assimilate and displace Indigenous peoples and eradicate Indigenous cultures. Today we recognize the resilience and strength of Indigenous peoples as well as the immeasurable positive impact they have had on all aspects of American society. “

The presidential proclamation was greeted by members of the Indigenous Peoples Group of the Arizona State Legislature, as well as leaders of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and the Tohono O’odham Nation.

“I think it’s a beautiful thing when I watch a president recognize and include the Native American people here in the United States and all of their contributions that have made the United States the best county in the world,” said President de Pascua. Yaqui, Peter Yucupicio, at TucsonSentinel. .com.

The Tohono O’odham Nation released a statement Monday, saying the holiday is a chance to recognize their ancestors and honor their “inherent rights to self-government” and the sovereignty of all tribal nations, saying it It is about “fundamental rights that the nation will continue to defend itself to the maximum.”

President Ned Norris Jr. and Vice President Wavalene Saunders said the holiday gives their nation a chance to continue to strengthen their “O’odham Himdag”, which refers to the culture and way of life of the tribe. .

“Our great nation has had to overcome many challenges, but we have always emerged more united as a people,” Tohono O’odham leaders said. “We continue to demonstrate this resilience and dedication to our O’odham Himdag in the face of the current challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. By getting vaccinated and taking safety precautions, we protect our children, our seniors and each other. . “

“Indigenous Peoples Day is about taking up our story,” said Senator Jamescita Peshlakai (D-Cameron), who has pushed for the complete abolition of Columbus Day. “Recognize our existence and our truth. We are here to stay forever, on our sacred lands.”

“It took a long time to come,” said Senator Victoria Steele. “For centuries, US policies have deliberately attempted to kill or assimilate and displace Indigenous peoples. We are grateful to President Biden, the first sitting president to issue a presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples Day. that Americans, we have an obligation to know the whole history of our country. Particularly here in Arizona where wherever we walk we tread on native lands. There are some 6.8 million native people in this country who are very much alive and finally celebrating our culture and the tremendous contributions of Indigenous peoples to this country is a long overdue recognition. ”

Senator Sally Ann Gonzales (D-Tucson) said, “The history of the Indigenous peoples of North America, past and present, is often forgotten, invisible or ignored. Indigenous peoples have made and continue to make important contributions that have shaped and continue to shape this country. Columbus Day does not bring communities together, it celebrates the attempted genocide, destruction and erasure of indigenous communities.

Representative Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren (D-Red Mesa) said: “Today we recognize and correct the erroneous narrative that Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ America, which forgets that indigenous peoples have been here for ages. immemorial and contributes to the erasure of indigenous peoples. in today’s society. Today we honor and celebrate our Indigenous heritage, culture and history. Along with this celebration, we must also recognize the many issues that Indigenous communities continue to face, including the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous people, and the recent discovery of thousands of children’s bodies found in residential schools across this country and Canada. Ahheh. “

Biden included language in his Columbus Day proclamation recognizing “the painful history of the wrongs and atrocities that many European explorers inflicted on tribal nations and indigenous communities. It is a measure of our greatness as a nation that we are not looking to bury these shameful episodes from our past – that we face them honestly, bring them to light, and do all we can to remedy them. “

Biden also declared October 9 Leif Erikson Day, honoring the Viking explorer and the legacy of Nordic immigrants to the United States. The president also declared General Pulaski’s Remembrance Day on Monday, in commemoration of the immigrant general of the War of Independence.

Bennito L. Kelty of contributed to this report.

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Kevin E. Boling

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