Holiday begins recognition process
Indigenous People’s Day spreads throughout U.S. cities. | flickr.com
“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7.
continuing the conversation
Associate professor of anthropology and member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina David Lowry referenced this verse in describing how people should continue the conversation with Native Americans as Los Angeles begins to recognize their history.
The Los Angeles city council officially changed the holiday of Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day on August 30.The United States declared Columbus Day as a federal holiday in 1937, but more and more people have listened to the long-repressed voices of Native Americans. A powerful movement of cities and states have officially declared Indigenous People’s Day in place of Columbus Day over the past decade, including Colorado, Vermont, Seattle, Phoenix and now Los Angeles.
“I feel like Columbus Day was actually kind of hurtful, like they weren’t really thinking, and it’s also feels like a naive kind of holiday,” said Emily Jacobo, freshman English major. “Really the Native Americans were already here. You need to take that into consideration.”
This symbolic movement throughout the nation brings hope and encouragement for many Native Americans, although it feels like a small triumph in light of the pain they have endured throughout American history. These cities and states specifically wish to acknowledge the pain they feel Christopher Columbus inflicted upon the Native American people, pain many refer to as genocide.
exposing a murder
“Columbus by and large is often depicted as the founder of the ‘New World.’ In fact, he was basically the worst type of pillager that you could have ever imagined. He was a murderer,” Lowry said. “He basically was the beginning of this really, really rampant movement to remove indigenous peoples from the ‘New World’ and to get the Europeans access to land resources.”
The city of Berkeley began the movement of proclaiming Indigenous People’s Day in 1992, and since then several other cities have joined, including but not limited to Seattle, Portland, Albuquerque, Denver and Phoenix, according to an NPR article. Now, 25 years after Berkeley’s decision, L.A. has joined them after the city council’s two-year debate. People hope this movement could with time induce the federal government to change the holiday to nationally recognize Native American history.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Italian American residents of L.A. complained to the city council saying eradicating Columbus Day would take away from their cultural heritage, though they did express support for an Indigenous People’s Day celebration held on a different day.
“On behalf of the Italian community, we want to celebrate with you… We just don’t want it to be at the expense of Columbus Day,” said Ann Potenza, president of Federated Italo-Americans of Southern California, to the L.A. Times.
While this holiday does bring celebration and encouragement to many local tribes, its purpose does not solely focus on the celebration of culture, but rather on the realization and recognition of the harm and difficulty Native American tribes have experienced since the time of Columbus in the late 1400s.
the acceptance of Native American culture
“It’s not just the acceptance of Native American culture. It’s acceptance of everything that’s happened to native people,” Lowry said.
Lowry pointed to Galatians 6:2 in describing how Christians need to learn about Native Americans and take on their pain, but to do so with humility, realizing their ignorance. They need to gain understanding of Native Americans, their grit and their history.
“The task that I think God is mandating for us today through Scripture, through Christ, is to become very serious with how we’re attempting to understand the worlds of other people, especially who have historically, we know, outrightly have been oppressed,” Lowry said. “There’s a biblical mandate in a lot of ways to pay attention to those people and to bear their burdens, to bear the burdens of their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.”
This monumental moment of a city’s decision to recognize the people who lived here before what people know as America remains just a nail in the rebuilding and repairing of Native American history. The precious victory of this holiday brings hope, but much repair remains in the future to fully honor those who came before this country.