Biden, first US president to proclaim Indigenous Peoples Day

Dylan Smith

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

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

Despite being declared by various local governments, Biden’s proclamation of Mondays as two statutory holidays is the first time a The US President has made Indigenous Peoples Day a national celebration.

“Our country was built on a promise of equality and opportunity for all — a promise that, despite the extraordinary progress we’ve made over the years, we’ve never fully delivered,” Biden said. “This is especially true when it comes to defending the rights and dignity of 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 and the immeasurable positive impact they have had on all aspects of American society.”

The presidential proclamation was well received by members of the Arizona State Legislature Indigenous Peoples Caucus, 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 Native American peoples here in the United States and all of their contributions that have made the United States the best county in the world,” said Peter Yucupicio, chairman. of Pascua Yaqui, at Tucson Sentinel. .com.

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

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

“Our great nation has had to overcome many challenges, but we have always come out 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 practicing safe measures, we are protecting our children, our elders and each other. others. .”

“Indigenous Peoples Day is about reclaiming our narrative,” said Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai (D-Cameron), who has pushed to abolish Columbus Day entirely. “Acknowledge our existence and our truth. We are here to stay forever, on our sacred homelands.”

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Senator Victoria Steele. “For centuries, American 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. As Americans, we have an obligation to know the full history of our country. Particularly here in Arizona where everywhere we walk, we walk on indigenous lands. There are some 6.8 million Indigenous people in this country who are very much alive and finally celebrating our culture and the tremendous contributions of Indigenous people to this country is a long overdue recognition. »

Senator Sally Ann Gonzales (D-Tucson) said, “The history of Indigenous peoples in North America, past and present, is often forgotten, unseen or ignored. Indigenous peoples have, and continue to make, significant 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.

Rep. Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren (D-Red Mesa) said, “Today we acknowledge and correct the misguided 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 the thousands of bodies of children found in residential schools in this country and Canada. Ahehehe.

Biden included language in his Columbus Day Proclamation recognizing “the painful history of 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 do not seek to bury these shameful episodes of our past – that we confront them honestly, bring them to light, and do all we can to address them.”

Biden also said October 9 as Leif Erikson Day, honoring the Viking explorer and the legacy of Norse immigrants to the United States. The president also said Monday to be General Pulaski Memorial Dayin commemoration of the immigrant general of the Revolutionary War.

Bennito L. Kelty of contributed to this report.

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Kevin E. Boling