Denver Joins Celebrations of Indigenous People’s Day

Photo: Ashley Bauler


The treatment of minorities in the US has been a disgrace since the country’s inception, but the treatment of the once-majority ethnic-group of this nation stoops even lower.

The indigenous Native American populations have essentially been wiped off the face of the Earth and their history has been encouraged to be forgotten. The rape and murder of the Native Americans is a scar on this country, which is why the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a step forward toward healing those wounds.

According to the American Indian Congress of America (AICA), only 2.9 million Native Americans currently inhabit the US, making up less than 1 percent of the population. It’s estimated that over 100 million natives were killed during the colonization of North America, which is why Indigenous Peoples’ Day now replaces the unjust celebration of Columbus Day in Denver.

Since Christopher Columbus’ arrival in 1492, Native Americans have endured atrocity after atrocity. According to the AICA, from 1887 to 1934, the US government illegally seized 90 million acres of land from Native Americans with no compensation. The majority of reservations that exist today are located in New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Alaska. Today, Native Americans struggle with representation, land legalities, and fair recognition from other Americans.

Berkeley, California, was the f irst city to initiate this movement toward an inclusive society by standing with Native Americans to protest the celebration of Columbus Day, back in the 1970s. It wasn’t until 2013 that California as a state made Indigenous Peoples’ Day official. Many other cities and states, including Denver, have repealed Columbus Day.

However, the US is not the only country with cities celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Countries like Peru, Brazil, and the Philippines also celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, as all of these countries were colonized, and their native populations were treated brutally by Europeans. The inauguration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day has been a slow process, and the US as a country has yet to accept it, which begs the question of why. It’s a massive step in the direction of equality and social justice for minorities, but it once again highlights the underlying racism in this country, and the impact of the holiday will not be as effective if the US refuses to embrace this new tradition as a whole.

From forced religious conversion and cultural appropriation to the current dim economic prospects that plague Native American reservations, the pursuit of happiness for Native Americans has been a centuries-long process. The creation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day by no means makes up for the brutality the Native American population has faced on their own land, but the celebration and appreciation of their culture is an attempt to mend and heal the scars that have been endured for hundreds of years.

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