Forgoing a Celebration of Colonization and Stolen Land, Cities Across the Country Opt to Recognize Indigenous Peoples Day

As cities across the United States aim to honor the millions of people who lived on the North American continent for centuries before they faced the persecution of European explorers who arrived to claim the land as their own, many local governments marked Indigenous People’s Day on Monday.

Indigenous activists applauded the move as they urged Americans to also acknowledge the battles First Nations groups are fighting in the present day.

“Formerly known as Columbus Day, today is Indigenous Peoples Day in more than 80 (and counting) cities, counties, and states,” wrote Jade Begay and Dallas Goldtooth in Sierra magazine. “Christopher Columbus was not a hero, he was a murderer. The land we all exist on is stolen. The history we’ve been taught is not accurate or complete. And perhaps most important among those truths, Indigenous lands are still being colonized, and our people are still suffering the trauma and impacts of colonization.”

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San Francisco and Cincinnati, Ohio were among the cities that celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day for the first time this year.

“San Francisco has a responsibility to oppose the systematic racism towards indigenous peoples in the United States, which perpetuates high rates of poverty and income inequality, exacerbating health, education, and social crises among Native Americans,” read a measure that passed earlier this year, calling for San Francisco to replace Columbus Day.

Begay and Goldtooth and urged those marking the day to support indigenous groups fighting fossil fuel industries, high rates of violence, and other rights violations as they work to protect the land they’ve inhabited for centuries:

The authors called on supporters to embrace “three frameworks that move our fight for indigenous rights forward”—intersectionality, indigenous feminism, and efforts to “change the story” about indigenous people.

“We have all been affected by capitalism, colonization and white supremacy. As such, it’s going to take all of us—native and non-native alike—to dismantle these systems of oppression,” wrote Begay and Goldtooth. “However, white allies in particular must be held accountable for their role in the dismantling of white supremacy and extractive economies.”

President Donald Trump’s comments on the holiday contrasted with the attitudes of a growing segment of the American population, as he tweeted about Columbus’s “spirit of determination and adventure,” with no mention in his presidential proclamation of the indigenous people who were enslaved and subjected to genocide by Europeans. His comments were met by condemnation on social media.

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