(note: this was originally published on Medium.com on 10/11/16)
Now they’ve gone and renamed Columbus Day Indigenous People’s Day. I think that’s a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we should continue to celebrate a man who got lost, and was responsible for the decimation and torture of 1st Nations peoples, it’s just that I don’t think replacing one meaningless day with another compartmentalized one is the best way to honor indigenous people.
To me, having Indigenous People’s Day is the equivalent of trading NY for some cheap baubles. This dynamic, just like naming a down-trodden housing project after Maya Angelou where children living in them are getting sick from lead or roaches or mold, or a boulevard after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when black men are being shot by police for no reason, or Cesar Chavez, when migrant farm workers, including children, live in substandard housing, receive sub-standard wages and are made sick from toxic pesticides, is but a token gesture, and even more than a gesture — a mockery, when no real, palpable civil rights change or quality of life improvements have been made for the groups they are supposed to honor.
We pay lip service to marginalized groups by giving them one day per year- black history, women’s history, veterans….but what do we do to improve the lives of these demographic groups? And what do we do to atone for injustices they have suffered at the hands of the dominant culture? If we want to evolve and activate our human and societal potential, we need to atone, repair, reconcile and heal the damage, the betrayed relationships, stolen and denigrated land, etc; re-weave the web we have frayed. We need only look at the news to see how sick and out of balance our larger American culture has become. So, not just to respect indigenous people, but in order for the dominant culture to heal and come into alignment, we need to make right, what for centuries we have made wrong; It’s a matter of integrity.
How does having one compartmentalized day out of the year we call Indigenous People’s day heal the wounds of rape and pillage? of having families and clan being ripped apart from their tribal lands and children being sent off to boarding school, punished for speaking their native languages? abused and mistreated? It doesn’t. No, what we need is a day of truth and reconciliation, of healing, atoning, and it needs to be ongoing. That’s really the only way we can honestly honor indigenous people, anything else is just white-washing the past.
Take Home Practice:
Donate or Participate in efforts to support Indigenous People and water protectors at Standing Rock– here’s some suggestions: http://www.thehoodwitch.com/blog/2016/9/7/defend-the-sacred-10-ways-you-can-help-the-standing-rock-sioux-fight-the-dakota-access-pipeline
See my post on Thanksgiving 2.0 for more ideas– https://wabisabiartlife.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/thanksgiving-2-0-six-reasons-why-i-think-we-should-still-celebrate-thanksgiving-with-a-twist/