Amidst the long-standing controversy surrounding Columbus Day, President Biden has once again officially declared the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This annual observance is a tribute to the resilience, strength, and perseverance of Native Americans, who have bravely preserved their cultural identities and ways of life despite facing violence and devastation.
In contrast to the usual focus on Christopher Columbus, this move highlights the crucial contributions and struggles of indigenous communities. In a proclamation issued on Friday, President Biden honors those who have helped shape and enrich the nation, while also acknowledging the challenges they continue to face.
Biden’s proclamation signifies a formal adoption of a day that a growing number of states and cities have come to acknowledge. According to the Pew Research Center, 17 states and the District of Columbia now have holidays honoring Native Americans. More than 100 cities celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, with many of them having altogether dropped the holiday honoring Columbus to replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Native Americans have borne the brunt of the work to make that happen.
What might seem to some like a simple name change can lead to real social progress for Indigenous Americans, said Van Heuvelen.
“What these changes accomplish, piece by piece, is visibility for Native people in the United States,” she said. “Until Native people are or are fully seen in our society and in everyday life, we can’t accomplish those bigger changes. As long as Native people remain invisible, it’s much more easier for people to look past those real issues and those real concerns within those communities.”