WASHINGTON -- Friday's proclamation by President Joe Biden of Indigenous Peoples Day was the first ever presidential proclamation. This gives the most significant boost to efforts to redirect the federal holiday that celebrates Christopher Columbus towards Native Americans.
This day will be observed on Oct. 11 along with Columbus Day which was established by Congress. Biden's announcement seemed to be a surprise, even though Native Americans have fought for national and local days of recognition for the country's indigenous peoples for many years.
"This was totally unexpected. Hillary Kempenich, an artist who is a member of Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, said that even though we had been discussing it and wanting it for so many years, it was completely unexpected. She and other tribal members successfully lobbied for Grand Forks (N.D.) to have a day that recognizes Native peoples in 2019.
Kempenich said, "I'm kinda overwhelmed with joy." Kempenich waited for her eighth grade daughter, who was raised challenging teachers' portrayals of Columbus, to return home Friday afternoon so she could share the good news.
Biden stated in the proclamation on Indigenous Peoples Day that Federal policies have systematically attempted to assimilate Native peoples and eliminate Native cultures for generations. "Today we acknowledge the resilience and strength of Indigenous peoples as well as their immeasurable positive effect on all aspects American society.
Biden also proclamated Columbus Day. He praised the contributions of Italian Americans to American society. However, he also referred to the violence and harm that Columbus and other explorers caused on the Americas.
Columbus, an Italian explorer, arrived in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492. He was the first to do so.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said that Biden felt strongly about the recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day. When asked if Biden would consider ending Columbus Day as a federal holiday she responded, "I don’t have any predictions at the moment."
John Echohawk, executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund, stated that the President's decision to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples Day was a significant step.
Echohawak stated that "big changes are possible from every small step" and that he hoped the administration will continue to make positive steps toward a better future for all citizens.
Biden's acknowledgement of Native Americans' suffering was a departure from President Donald Trump, who has been defending "intrepid heroes" such as Columbus in his 2020 proclamation.
Trump stated at the time that "sadly, in recent years, extremist activists have tried to undermine Christopher Columbus’ legacy." "These extremists want to replace discussion about his vast contributions with talk about failings, his discoveries and his accomplishments with transgressions.
Biden made the announcement at the same time that the White House was revealing its plans to restore territory in two large national monuments located in Utah, which Trump had removed of their protections. Bears Ears is located on land Native American tribes consider sacred.
Biden's campaign against Trump saw tribal activist mobilize to vote for Trump, an act of activism tribal members credit with helping Biden win some Western States.Updated Date: 10 October 2021, 07:46