The following was written by and from the perspective of Jade Begay and Dallas Goldtooth.
Formerly known as Columbus Day, today is Indigenous Peoples Day in more than 80 (and counting) cities, counties, and states. While official recognition of this day began in the late ’70s, with the UN discussing the replacement of Columbus Day, resistance and challenge to said “holiday” existed in the hearts and minds of Indigenous and Native peoples long before cities or states began to observe Indigenous Peoples Day.
As land defenders—people who are working for Indigenous territories to be protected from contamination and exploitation—we see Indigenous Peoples Day as progress; it signals a crucial shift in our culture to recognize the dark past of colonization. No longer are our communities, towns, cities, and states remaining silent and complacent in celebrating the cultural genocide that ensued after Christopher Columbus landed on Turtle Island (a.k.a. North America). Today also means that the erasure of our narrative as Indigenous peoples is ending and our truths are rising to the surface. These truths include: 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.
Across the country, we continue to see the violation of our rights and treaties as extractive projects are proposed and constructed. Across the nation, we continue to grieve our missing and murdered Indigenous women, victims of violence brought to their communities by extractive oil and mining projects. We continue to bear the brunt of climate change as our food sovereignty is threatened by dying ecosystems and as our animal relatives are becoming extinct due to land loss, warmer seasons, and/or contamination.
Yet despite these challenges, our people and communities are demonstrating incredible bravery and innovation to bring forth healing and justice. Through the tireless work of Indigenous organizers, activists, knowledge keepers, and artists, we are learning about what is working and what our movements need more of to dismantle systems like white supremacy and systemic racism that colonization has imposed on our communities.
Read more on SierraClub.org.