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Reclaiming history and honoring Indigenous people

Columbus Day, as it’s been known since 1971, is a day that celebrates one of the perpetrators of violence against Indigenous peoples, and it is a day that simply shouldn’t exist. At its core, Columbus Day celebrates colonization and serves as a punch in the gut for Indigenous peoples.

Growing up, I visited the Navajo Nation reservation each year. The first Diné bizaad (the people’s language) word my mother, a member of the Navajo Nation, taught me was “Yá'át'ééh,” which means “hello.” It’s how the Diné (the people) greet people

The sun rises in the east, the direction that all hogans, traditional sacred spaces of the Diné people, face. Sheepskin hung on the walls inside my grandparents’ hogan. It’s where I once watched a medicine man create a healing sand painting

My grandma often sat on the floor inside the house weaving a wool blanket, moving from one end to the other end, a seemingly meditative process. She always wore a loose velvet long-sleeve top tucked into her long skirt. 

A turquoise silver belt sat at her hips. Her hands were adorned in bracelets and rings made of turquoise and sterling silver like the beautiful necklace that hung gently around her neck. For the Diné, turquoise is a stone of protection, healing and good fortune. 

This is a window into life on the Navajo Nation, the largest reservation in the United States that is rich in Diné culture. But the Navajo Nation’s culture is not without the intergenerational trauma that often accompanies genocide and broken promises that many Indigenous people faced when Christopher Columbus arrived on Turtle Island.

True, Columbus found some land that he thought was India, but as we all know, he brought disease in the form of smallpox, which wiped out many Native people; violence and sexual assault against women; and intergenerational trauma.

It goes without saying that celebrating Columbus Day honors genocide and violence. For the longest time, not many recognized this stain on our history — making it easier to celebrate Columbus and his “discovery” while leaving out the other side of the narrative.  

Today — and every day — we celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day. It’s a day that celebrates Indigenous peoples’ contributions and their flourishing culture because Indigenous people are still here. We are resilient and stronger than ever.

Here’s how you can celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day: 

  1. Acknowledge the land you are on. Spitfire headquarters in Washington, D.C. is on the ancestral lands of  Nacotchtank, or the Anacostans, and the neighboring lands of the Piscataway and Pamunkey people.

  2. Take action to make Indigenous Peoples Day a federal holiday. Call and write to your senator or representative to support and sign a recently reintroduced bicameral legislation, The Indigenous Peoples Day Act, to replace Columbus Day as a federal holiday and designate the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day.

  3. Donate to an organization that supports Native American and Indigenous peoples.

  4. Attend an event that Indigenous groups in your region are holding. 

Erin Weldon is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation

This entry was posted on Friday, October 6, 2023 at 15:28 pm and is filed under Ethical and visual storytelling and Spitfire culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.