An Indigenous Peoples’ Day History Lesson

indigenous peoples day

On October 11th, 2021 President Joe Biden proclaimed Indigenous Peoples’ Day which falls on the previously celebrated Columbus Day.

“On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we honor America’s first inhabitants and the Tribal Nations that continue to thrive today,” Biden said in his initial proclamation.

Since time immemorial, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians have built vibrant and diverse cultures — safeguarding land, language, spirit, knowledge, and tradition across the generations.

On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, our Nation celebrates the invaluable contributions and resilience of Indigenous peoples, recognizes their inherent sovereignty, and commits to honoring the Federal Government’s trust and treaty obligations to Tribal Nations.

Our country was conceived on a promise of equality and opportunity for all people — a promise that, despite the extraordinary progress we have made through the years, we have never fully lived up to.  That is especially true when it comes to upholding the rights and dignity of the Indigenous people who were here long before colonization of the Americas began.  For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures.

Today, we recognize Indigenous peoples’ resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact that they have made on every aspect of American society.  We also recommit to supporting a new, brighter future of promise and equity for Tribal Nations — a future grounded in Tribal sovereignty and respect for the human rights of Indigenous people in the Americas and around the world.

Biden issued a memorandum reaffirming our Nation’s solemn trust and treaty obligations to American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Nations and directed the heads of executive departments and agencies to engage in regular, meaningful, and robust consultation with Tribal officials.  It is a priority of my Administration to make respect for Tribal sovereignty and self-governance the cornerstone of Federal Indian policy.  History demonstrates that Native American people — and our Nation as a whole — are best served when Tribal governments are empowered to lead their communities and when Federal officials listen to and work together with Tribal leaders when formulating Federal policy that affects Tribal Nations.

“The Federal Government has a solemn obligation to lift up and invest in the future of Indigenous people and empower Tribal Nations to govern their own communities and make their own decisions.  We must never forget the centuries-long campaign of violence, displacement, assimilation, and terror wrought upon Native communities and Tribal Nations throughout our country.  Today, we acknowledge the significant sacrifices made by Native peoples to this country — and recognize their many ongoing contributions to our Nation,” Biden said.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said, “Today, we mark Indigenous Peoples’ Day by recognizing indigenous peoples’ incredible resilience, in spite of a devastating history. As we remember that the City of Los Angeles was settled on sacred land, we join together in celebrating indigenous peoples’ distinct contributions to our history, our progress, our culture and our future. 

“It was an honor to serve with Congresswomen Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland, the first Congresswomen of indigenous descent to be elected to Congress, as we pushed to address historical wrongs on a national level. Secretary Haaland has since been appointed by the Biden Administration to serve as Secretary of the Interior, and I am excited to work in collaboration with the Los Angeles City and County Native American Indian Commission to invite the Secretary to Los Angeles.
“Los Angeles County is home to more Native Americans/Alaska Natives than any other county in the United States. Today we recommit to continuing to lead with collaboration as we confront our city’s greatest challenges. Together, our work to better Los Angeles and the lives of all of those in it, will continue, and succeed.”

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