Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day should mean honoring migrants’ rightsRoundup
tags: immigration, Native American history, Indigenous Peoples Day
Liz Ellis is an assistant professor of history at New York University and a citizen of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma.
Today, more than 100 cities, including Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Santa Fe, will commemorate Indigenous Peoples’ Day with celebrations of their vibrant, contemporary Native communities and their heritage.
This celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day rather than Columbus Day has been decades in the making. Throughout most of the 20th century, U.S. schoolchildren were taught that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America. However, in the 1990s a broad coalition of artists, activists, educators and Native Americans began to contest this narrative of European triumph. They advocated an end to the commemoration of Columbus’s arrival and atrocities that his expedition committed against Caribbean Indigenous peoples, and instead for recognition of the cultural and historical contributions of America’s Native peoples.
These are critically important steps in decolonizing this holiday, but we need to think bigger. The importance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day has always been rooted in the concept of visibility: reclaiming Native history and exposing historical injustices. This year we should recognize this holiday by demanding justice for Native people at the U.S. border.
This day of recognition is a critical component of the broader fight for justice in Native American communities. So many stories of our nation’s origins present Native peoples as elements of a distant past, as though they were destined to fade into extinction. The combination of these national narratives of Native disappearance, along with the ubiquitous and stereotypical portrayals of Native Americans means Indigenous people and communities are frequently rendered invisible.
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