Aw, Columbus Day. The faux holiday on the second Monday in October, typically celebrated by the closing of banks and schools for a white dude who didn’t actually discover anything. In 1992, the City of Berkeley, home to the 1960s Free Speech Movement and located 13 miles east of San Francisco, rightfully reclaimed the former bogus holiday as Indigenous Peoples Day. At the WGLI we’re proud to commemorate and observe this rebranding.
Holidays imply celebration, and the reclaiming and renaming of this particular holiday brings forth an authentic reason to celebrate. Indigenous Peoples Day provides all of us an opportunity to change some of the negative messages formerly associated with Columbus Day. Advocating for the visibility and honor of the people who first walked this land is certainly a celebration we can all participate in.
When taking a look into the rich history of Indigenous peoples*, often overlooked is the historical importance of native women. Native women are often incorrectly stereotyped, likened only to a false representation of Pocahontas. History tells us differently. Indigenous women throughout many nations and tribes play major roles in the retention of oral history and tradition for future generations. Indigenous women are also held in high regard spiritually, often known as “an extension of the Spirit Mother” (Portman and Herring 2001).
Unfortunately, over the years, there has been a disheartening shift in the lives of native women. This shift has created a variety of issues that Indigenous women currently face. These issues include: increased incidences of violence, high rates of sexual assault, workplace barriers, health and healthcare problems, and consequences of substance abuse. Increasing awareness and looking toward solutions is imperative to helping ease the adverse effects that these women are weathering. Without the acknowledgment of these dire circumstances, Indigenous women will continue to face these challenges without the resources and support that so many are in need of.
In addressing the areas where native women are in most need of support, we can add to the hope and promise of a true celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day. There are a variety of organizations whose aim is to change the narrative that Indigenous women are included in. In honor of these women, and Indigenous Peoples Day, here are some links and contact information for further information to get involved in the solution:
Mending the Sacred Hoop a coalition to promote social change and end domestic violence against Native women: 888-305-1650 http://mshoop.org/
Indian Law Resource Center provides legal assistance to Indigenous peoples for issues such as racism and oppression, land protection, human rights, and cultural retention: http://indianlaw.org/content/about-center
National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Inc. (NIWRC) is a Native nonprofit organization aiding in issues of domestic violence and safety for Native women: http://www.niwrc.org/