Indigenous Peoples Day is an appropriate title for this federal “holiday”

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Today is Indigenous Peoples Day in Minnesota. As a Minnesota resident, I am proud to say that. In 2016, then Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton issued a proclamation for Indigenous Peoples Day. Many localities and some states have replaced the Columbus Day “holiday” with Indigenous Peoples Day. It’s time for more to do this.

In my school years, I learned all about Columbus and his discovery. What I didn’t learn was what happened to the Native Americans in the land he supposedly discovered. Columbus, and those who accompanied him, committed many atrocities against the people already living on the land. As Europeans sought to escape religious persecution, military battles, poverty, and to discover all the land of gold supposedly promised, they often persecuted those already living in what was to become the United States.

One of the best places to accomplish research on Indigenous Peoples in the U.S. is in the records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. A plethora of older records of the BIA have been transferred to the U.S. National Archives (NARA). What does the National Archives call this day? It still uses the federal government term of Columbus Day. It’s regarded as a federal holiday and the Archives locations are closed for the day. Even those who wish to honor their ancestors on Indigenous Peoples Day can’t visit in person read the records about their ancestors. The BIA records that are digitized, indexed, or microfilmed represent a very small percentage of the older records making an in-person visit necessary. The BIA records are in various NARA locations. Visit the NARA website and do some searching using various terminology. The BIA records are mostly written by white men (and some women) and often tell sad stories of how the Native Americans were treated. Getting rid of Columbus Day would be one small bit of reparation.

National Public Radio covered the true importance of today. Ironically, the District of Columbia where NARA is based, has declared today Indigenous Peoples Day! I love one statement in the NPR article: ” For many Italian Americans, Columbus Day isn’t just about the man but about what the day represents: a people searching for safety and acceptance in their new home.” No one is saying Italian American should be neglected. All people should find safety and acceptance. Commit crimes against people and that is a whole other issue. Doesn’t all this make you think about our world today and the discussions of immigrants who wish to live in this land?

An excellent website for furthering your education about the needed change in the older holiday designation for today is the Zinn Education Project. I learned about this in one of my news feeds for today.

© 2019, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.

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