Indigenous Peoples’ Day replacing Columbus Day in many communities

“We’re celebrating and honoring our survival”
Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 4:24 PM MDT
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IDAHO (KMVT/KSVT) — Communities nationwide are transitioning from calling the second Monday in October Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day. This recasting is seen as a step towards honoring Indigenous peoples as the first inhabitants of what is now the United States.

“First of all, Columbus never made it to the mainland United States,” said Indigenous Idaho Alliance Executive Director Les Hutchinson Campos, Ph.D. “Instead of the grief that goes along with maybe acknowledging a person who had such a treacherous legacy, instead we’re celebrating and honoring our survival.”

Hutchinson Campos — who descends from Indigenous people in Sonora, Mexico — said Indigenous Idaho Alliance has been focused on bringing awareness to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

In a historic move, Joe Biden became the first president to issue a proclamation on Indigenous Peoples’ Day saying in part “we must never forget the centuries-long campaign of violence, displacement, assimilation and terror wrought upon Native communities and Tribal Nations throughout our country.”

“We’re not all wearing feather headdresses, beads and traditional clothing,” Hutchinson Campos said. “We could live next door to you, and our culture is still alive and thriving.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 26% of American Indians and Alaska Natives live in poverty.

Businesswoman Wetalu Henry of Lapwai said the housing crisis has hit Idaho’s Native American communities hard as well, with the cost of rent and home sales skyrocketing. She said one way to support their community is by buying from their businesses.

Henry owns ‘Nchi.wana, which is an online business aimed at expressing Indigenous ideas and designs. It combines elements from the Nimíipuu and Warm Springs Paiute plateau region of the Pacific Northwest.

“If you want to support Indigenous, if you want to be an ally, support small Indigenous businesses so we can re-find that economic sustainability within our community,” she said.

Henry added more big corporations are taking Native American designs and profiting off of them and she urged consumers to think wisely about their purchases and how they might affect Indigenous small business owners.

Hutchinson Campos additionally said it is important for supporters of Indigenous people to learn from them, especially when it comes to topics like climate change and environmental sustainability.

“Listening to us is a big thing,” Hutchinson Campos said. “We know how to take care of this land in a way that’s going to keep us all okay.”

Henry added that extends well past thinking of their community only one day every year.

“In our lives, it’s Indigenous day every day,” Henry said. “After 500 years of murder, rape and pillage, we’re still here. We’re still here. We have lots of historical trauma we need to deal with, but we also have a lot of resiliency, love, strength and empowerment of our communities, as well.”

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