Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Howard County and in a growing number of places across the US. County Executive Calvin Ball made the announcement of the change in September of 2020.
“Indigenous and Native American history is embedded in our nomenclature and our geography — Patuxent, Potomac, Kittamaqundi. And yet there is a clear erasure of their history and their connection to our land,” Ball said. “Indigenous Peoples’ Day presents an opportunity of all ages and backgrounds to learn more about the people who were here before Columbus and colonization. Representation matters, but it must be more than a rallying cry.”
It can be difficult for some of us to let go of the tales from our early years about brave explorers who discovered new lands. But all those stories are rooted in the basic falsehood that any places that Western Europeans didn’t know about yet were theirs to take. And why did they believe this? Because, to them, indigenous peoples were nothing. They had no rights of ownership. Their cultures meant nothing. Essentially, colonizers got around any concept that they were stealing by claiming that indigenous peoples weren’t really people. Not people of value, anyway. Not “people like us.”
Indigenous Peoples’ Day gives us an opportunity to work on understanding this and coming to terms with all its ramifications. Naturally this has met with resistance from those who want to cling to the old stories they were taught. Stories that made the people they consider to be their ancestors look good. But what about other, older precepts that many are taught to revere, like “thou shalt not steal”, “thou shalt not covet”, and most of all, “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”?
People like Columbus and many others were taught those words and still engaged in wholesale theft of land and destruction of culture. Genocide.
I can’t celebrate that.
Observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day is opening a door to face those truths. We are beginning to acknowledge that the sovereignty of the land we live on rested with those whose stories we have never known. We can deny and suppress that, like our ancestors, or we can do better.
Indigenous Peoples' Day is a holiday that celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures. On October 8, 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden signed a presidential proclamation declaring October 11 to be a national holiday. (from Wikipedia)
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