President Biden Declares Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The goal is to shift the Columbus Day holiday to an appreciation of Native peoples.

President Joe Biden issued the first-ever presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, lending the most significant boost yet to efforts to refocus the federal holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus toward an appreciation of Native peoples. The day will be observed each year on Oct. 11, along with Columbus Day, which is established by Congress. “For generations, federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures,” President Biden wrote in the Indigenous Peoples’ Day proclamation. “Today, we recognize Indigenous peoples’ resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact that they have made on every aspect of American society.”

In a separate proclamation on Columbus Day, President Biden praised the role of Italian Americans in U.S. society, but also referenced the violence and harm Columbus and other explorers of the age brought about on the Americas. “Today, we also acknowledge the painful history of wrongs and atrocities that many European explorers inflicted on tribal nations and Indigenous communities,” President Biden wrote. “It is a measure of our greatness as a nation that we do not seek to bury these shameful episodes of our past — that we face them honestly, we bring them to the light, and we do all we can to address them.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden “felt strongly” about recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Asked if President Biden might seek to end marking Columbus Day as a federal holiday, she replied, “I don’t have any predictions at this point.”

John Echohawk, executive director of the Native American Rights Fund, said the president’s decision to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day was an important step.

“Big changes happen from each small step, and we hope this administration intends to continue making positive steps towards shaping a brighter future for all citizens,” Echohawak said.

President Biden’s acknowledgment of the suffering of Native Americans also marked a break from President Donald Trump’s ardent defense of “intrepid heroes” like Columbus in his 2020 proclamation of the holiday.

“Sadly, in recent years, radical activists have sought to undermine Christopher Columbus’ legacy,” Trump said at the time. “These extremists seek to replace discussion of his vast contributions with talk of failings, his discoveries with atrocities, and his achievements with transgressions.”

President Biden made the announcement on the same day the White House was disclosing its plans to restore territory to two sprawling national monuments in Utah that Trump had stripped of protections. One, Bears Ears, is on land that Native American tribes consider sacred.

President Biden’s campaign against Trump saw tribal activists mobilize to get out votes for the Democrat, in activism that tribal members credited with helping President Biden win some Western states.

If you can stand to read more of this…. 

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

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