Sunday, November 28, 2021

Biden is the first president to mark Indigenous People’s Day

President Joe Biden on Friday issued the first presidential proclamation of Indigenous People’s Day, a most significant boost to efforts to relaunch the federal holiday that celebrates Christopher Columbus toward the appreciation of Native Americans.

The day will be celebrated on October 11 along with Columbus Day, which has been established by Congress. While Native Americans have campaigned for years for local and national days in recognition of the country’s indigenous people, Biden’s announcement took many by surprise.

“It was completely unexpected. Even though we’ve been talking about it and wanting it for so long,” said Hilary Kempenich, an artist and member of Chippewa’s Turtle Mountain Band. In 2019, she and other tribal members successfully campaigned for their hometown of Grand Forks, North Dakota to replace Columbus Day with a day that recognizes indigenous peoples.

“I am overwhelmed with joy,” said Kempenich. She looked forward to Friday afternoon to share the news with her eighth-grade daughter, who has grown up challenging the portrayal of Columbus teachers.

“For generations, federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace natives and erase native cultures,” Biden wrote in the Indigenous People’s Day proclamation. “Today, we recognize the resilience and strength of Indigenous peoples, as well as the immeasurable positive impact they have made on every aspect of American society.”

In a separate proclamation on Columbus Day, Biden praised the role of Italian Americans in American society, but also noted the violence and harm Columbus and other explorers of the era brought on America.

Making landfall in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492, Columbus, an Italian, was a wave of European explorers who exterminated indigenous populations in the Americas in search of gold and other wealth to enslave the people.

“Today, we also acknowledge the painful history of the mistakes and atrocities that many European explorers inflicted on tribal nations and indigenous communities,” Biden wrote. “It is a measure of our greatness as a nation that we try not to bury these shameful episodes of our past – that we face them honestly, we bring them to light, and that we address them.” Make every effort to.”

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden “felt strongly” about recognizing Indigenous People’s Day. When asked whether Biden might want to end the marking of Columbus Day as a federal holiday, he replied, “I have no predictions at this time.”

John Iahawk, executive director of the Native American Rights Fund, said the president’s decision to recognize Indigenous People’s Day was an important step.

“Every small step leads to big change, and we hope this administration will continue to take positive steps towards shaping a brighter future for all citizens,” Ichawk said.

Biden’s acceptance of the suffering of Native Americans marked a break from President Donald Trump’s enthusiastic defense of “fearless heroes” like Columbus in his 2020 holiday announcement.

“Sadly, in recent years, radical activists have tried to undermine the legacy of Christopher Columbus,” Trump said at the time. “These extremists want to replace the discussion of his vast contributions with failures, atrocities with his discoveries, and crimes with his achievements.”

Biden announced on the same day that the White House was revealing his plans to restore the area of ​​two giant national monuments in Utah that Trump had stripped of security. One, Bears Ears, is on land that Native American tribes consider sacred.

Biden’s campaign against Trump mobilized tribal activists to vote for Democrats, an activism that tribal members credited with helping Biden win some Western states.


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