Why I Celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day

Photo by Oriana Eliçabe

Photo by Oriana Eliçabe

This year marks the 80th year Columbus Day is being celebrated as a national US holiday.

This holiday tries to honor Christopher Columbus, a man responsible for the destruction of many indigenous communities—one of many in Europe’s long history of conquest and colonization. His oppression of indigenous peoples, carried out through genocide and under the guise of religious rites, affected communities across the Americas, especially the Taino in Puerto Rico. This legacy eventually evolved into discriminatory law in the modern day, carried out by legislators and funded by large corporations in attempts to take land and power. We see this today, from the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline to Mark Zuckerberg trying to force native Hawaiians off their land and the blatant disregard for the plight of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women under Prime Minister Trudeau’s false veil of liberalism. More than ever, it is important that we are aware of how we can help support indigenous communities in North America and the Pacific Islands and actively fight against the continued oppression of their communities. 

Columbus Day is a holiday that should never be honored. Columbus’ vile actions laid the foundation of white supremacy, patriarchy, and violence upon which the United States was built. His actions also laid down roots for the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, enabling more systematic oppression in the Americas. Increasingly, more cities within the US are resisting the celebration of this day and moving to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a holiday honoring the indigenous peoples of North America. This action first began in Berkeley, California in 1992, titled “Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People,” and has grown to over 55 cities in the US. 

The AAPI community, I believe, has strong ties to supporting indigenous communities. Much of early activism in the AAPI community was rooted in giving power to third-world countries, and resisting the roles imperialism and colonialism had in our lives. Colonized peoples exist throughout many countries in Asia and the Pacific Islands, and many continue to have their cultures diminished and their languages erased. It is vital we do not forget these values and communities when we talk about issues like media representation and immigration policy.

With the importance of immigration in AAPI communities, we must decolonize our mindsets and recognize the United States isn’t and wasn’t ever originally our land, and that the “American Dream” many immigrant communities aspire to is built on the premise of owning land that originally belonged to indigenous peoples. In regards to recent immigration bans and policies targeting undocumented people, we must realize that the true “illegal immigrants” were colonizers and abusers such as Christopher Columbus himself. On this Indigenous Peoples’ Day, let us remember and acknowledge that indigenous communities have shaped culture, history, and language all over the world—not colonizers, conquistadors, and oppressors like Columbus. We must, therefore, always honor and fight in solidarity with indigenous peoples in North America, the Pacific Islands, and throughout the world. 

Here are a couple of concrete actions you can take to support indigenous communities:

  • Donating to Indigenous Peoples' Rights Organizations (Stand With Standing RockNative American Rights Fund, etc.)
  • Buying art directly from Native Americans
  • Doing research on Native American history (what land is your university/home city built upon?)
  • Inviting others to participate in these activities with you as well
  • Anything to disrupt society from accepting the celebration of a holiday rooted in Indigenous genocide 
  • Donate to hurricane relief in Puerto Rico