By CATHERINE DONNELLY
Special to the PRESS
Since the 1970s, efforts to replace the Columbus Day holiday with a day that would instead celebrate their indigenous populations. In the United States, it took until two decades later for a group to convince the city council of Berkeley, California, to make October 12 a “Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People” and establish 1992 as the “Year of Indigenous People.” Texas came on board recently with its proclamation. Port Isabel residents Daniel and Niiohontesha Warrior weigh in with their perspectives.
On that day, in a symbolic move, Berkeley renamed Columbus Day “Indigenous Peoples Day.” This served to start turning away from celebrating the conquest of North America by Europeans and also to acknowledge the losses suffered by our country’s Native American peoples and their cultures. Native American composer White Cloud Wolfhawk also produced an opera entitled Get Lost (Again) Columbus on that historic day.
In the years following Berkeley’s action, many other local governments and institutions in the United States have either renamed or canceled Columbus Day. Some entities honor Native American people as part of Columbus Day or try to avoid controversy from its detractors by designating two holidays on the same day.
Mirroring Berkeley to the west, in December 2015, Belfast, Maine was the first city east of the Mississippi to approve a resolution to replace Columbus Day with ‘Indigenous Peoples Day.’ The first historic celebration was in October 2016, with a weekend of events produced with the local Wabanaki communities of Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, and Mi’kmaq.
In 2021, a statewide effort to recognize the past, present, and future presence of Indigenous Peoples and promote Indigenous cultures in Texas culminated in Governor Greg Abbot signing resolution HCR62, which declared the second week in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Week. After years of activism led by Leroy Pena of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas, this resolution was introduced by Representative Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi and Representative Leo Pacheco of San Antonio. It was written by J. Albert Nungaray, an Indigenous Historian.
According to the whitehouse.gov website, President Biden issued the first-ever presidential proclamation of ‘Indigenous Peoples Day’ in 2021. He stated that the day is meant to “honor America’s first inhabitants and the Tribal Nations that continue to thrive today.” In contrast, some conservative public figures and communities criticize ‘Indigenous Peoples Day’ as an example of how ‘the radical left’ eradicates our country’s history.
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