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From Columbus to Indigenous Peoples' Day: More Than Window Dressing?

Credit: Junco Canché

Today, Truthout published a piece I wrote called "Beyond Columbus Day: Changing the Name Is Just the First Step." I've been writing and reporting on the movement to get rid of Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples' Day for five years. So, I thought it would be good to put some of that material in all one place.

We rightfully honor the work of so many Native activists across the country who have worked tirelessly for years to change a holiday celebrating a mass murderer, Columbus Day, to one honoring the survival of Indigenous people. But even as city after city (70-plus and counting!), changes the name and focus of the holiday, I also think it's important to listen to Indigenous people who are pushing for more and not to get complacent. In the article, I detail Diné activist Klee Benally concerns that without real change in how the Navajo Nation's largest "border town" treats Native people, Flagstaff's resolution proclaiming Indigenous Peoples' Day amounts to little more than window-dressing. The city never honored a Memo of Understanding made with the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission meant to improve race relations.

I also shared part of a podcast interview I did last year with Los Angeles-based Diné activist Chrissie Castro after the L.A. city council voted to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day. She describes in great detail the series of meetings leading up to the vote that the city mandated between the Native and Italian American community. It's fascinating stuff. I really recommend a listen.

However, even as L.A. celebrates its first Indigenous Peoples' Day, there are protests over a Columbus Statue the city refuses to take down. I will be interviewing local leader Joel Garcia about it on the monthly KBOO talk radio show I co-host this Wednesday. Klee Benally will also be our guest.

William S. Parkerson inciting the mob. Harper's Weekly, March 28, 1891.
And if you want a thorough history of Columbus Day, I suggest checking out my article on Medium called "Goodbye Columbus." I examine Columbus' diaries and atrocities and how Italians Americans created the holiday after the largest mass lynching in American history, of Italian American immigrants. They sought to put themselves in American history to protect themselves from murder and assault.

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