Indigenous Women: Nations, Cultures, Voices

The Blog offers information about Indigenous women spanning topics from current events in Indian Country to book reviews to discussion of Indigenous women’s cultural histories and ritual cycles relating to the Earth. Above all, there are the voices of Indigenous women as they present themselves.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Indigenous Peoples' Day October 9, 2017

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_Native-American201.jpgThe annual U.S. celebration and federal holiday called Columbus Day is this Monday. The day is welcomed by many Americans who are glad for the day off and appreciate the many retail sales events over the long weekend. Columbus Day is also celebrated throughout Central and South America and in Spain. Heroic tales of Columbus having a "great vision and courage" to travel in so-called "uncharted" seas are told to school children and promulgated in mainstream media. Some Italian-American communities today continue the traditions of the generations preceding them who originally lobbied to have this day recognized by the U.S. government in order to develop ethnic pride. This history all sounds reasonable--if you don't know your history, that is!

Pictured above is Jacqueline Pata, a member of the Raven/Sockeye Clan of the Tlingit Nation of Alaska, who is Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians. Ms. Pata is wearing a Tlingit cedar bark woven hat with a Tlingit robe made of ermine and abalone. Photo courtesy of the

b2ap3_thumbnail_161009193713-01-columbus-day-indigenous-peoples-day-exlarge-169.jpgColumbus Day is a celebration of Christopher Columbus discovering America. This is the first problem with the holiday: there were already millions of people living in the Americas in highly-advanced societies with democratically-elected, representative governments who possessed an intellectual legacy rivaling the Greeks--this point was not missed on the Founding Fathers who wrote at length about the highly-sophisticated Indigenous nations. If another nation came to the shores of America and said they "discovered" us, it would be ludicrous--that's how many Indigenous peoples understand Columbus Day--ludicrous, propaganda.

Second, Christopher Columbus committed atrocities once he landed in the Greater Antilles (islands in the Caribbean) that are the ancestral lands of the Taino people. He realized they were peaceful people who functioned on communal ethics and, as he wrote in his own personal journals, they would be easily subdued...and that is what he did. He and his men mass murdered these people, sold them into slavery in their own lands and abroad, and openly wrote about raping the women. This is not something to celebrate.b2ap3_thumbnail_161009193715-02-columbus-day-indigenous-peoples-day-restricted-medium-plus-169.jpg

But what is important about the actions of Christopher Columbus, which were explicitly endorsed by the Doctrine of Discovery that is a Papal Order written by Pope Nicholas the V in 1487 and that is still in force, is that Columbus was given the God-ordained right to confiscate all non-Christian people and lands. As Americans, we would think this Papal Order from centuries ago is utterly irrelevant today, but it is absolutely not. The thinking permeates how Indigenous peoples are treated today and was directly used in a key Supreme Court case by Justice John Marshal that effectively took away Indigenous rights to their own sovereignty--that's a problem. In America we have separation of church and state, but this Constitutional protection has never applied to Native Americans. Native people are the First Inhabitants of the Americas and are also American citizens who are protected under the U.S. Constitution.

b2ap3_thumbnail_ap-jefferson-county-colorado-student-protest.jpgThird, the legacy of Christopher Columbus directly touches Indigenous peoples' lives today--and there are millions of Indigenous peoples living throughout the Americas. These are but a few reasons why the holiday is very troubling, why many cities in the United States refuse to honor Columbus Day and instead are celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Indigenous-Peoples-Day-Poster.jpgFrom Los Angeles County to cities in Vermont, Texas, and Colorado, city councils are recognizing the truth and meaning of Columbus's arrival in the Americas and now celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day. Native American nations play a key role in educating and advocating to make this transition a reality. Though the U.S. government holiday is still officially called Columbus Day, there is a growing movement to change our national day off the second Monday in October to reflect the real history of America and the true spirit of who we want to be as Americans: strong enough to acknowledge our past and honorable enough to envision a new future based in that reality. With a clear-sighted conscience, we can much better go forward as a united people to address the surmounting issues facing us presently. And being honest about our origins psychologically prepares us to do that work--looking back at our truths and looking forward with courage.  b2ap3_thumbnail_2016-02-24-IDP-Faculty-Vote-5-938x535.jpg

Pictured at right are Tufts University students celebrating after the faculty voted to support Indigenous Peoples' Day this past February. The University now joins prestigious institutions such as Brown Univ, Cornell, and the University of California, Berkeley in celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day instead of Columbus Day. Photo courtesy of The Tufts Daily.



Last modified on
Dr. Mays is a professional writer with a doctoral degree in Native American Studies who has taught at the college level for nearly two decades. She is committed to educating about Indigenous cultures, especially about practices that specifically relate to women, in order to raise awareness about current issues in Indian Country, dissolve stereotypes, and create healing among all communities.


Additional information