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Cities across the U.S. celebrated Indigenous People's Day on Monday, opting not to observe Columbus Day. (Photo: @MoBetter_B/Twitter)

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

"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."

Julia Conley

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."

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:

Across the country we continue to see the violation of our right 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 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. And now, we are fighting for the very right to resist as anti-protest laws emerge across the country, which aim to criminalize our people for protecting what is most sacred to us.

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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