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How Indigenous Peoples Day Counters ‘500 Years of Oppression’

There’s a chance your city already observes Indigenous Peoples Day, or that leaders are considering joining the more than 90 locations in the U.S. that have declared the second Monday in October a day to celebrate Native American history and culture. Perhaps you live in South Dakota, the first state to establish Native American Day in 1989. Or you might live near Berkeley, the first city to replace Columbus Day in 1992. Regardless, on Oct. 8, you can join people across the country in celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day, a counter-celebration of the federally recognized Columbus Day. The observance was created to raise awareness and reverse the celebration of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas, which marked the beginning of European colonization and genocide of indigenous communities. 


A preview of the upcoming season of "Tending Nature."

The idea of rejecting a holiday honoring Columbus was formally discussed for the first time at an international conference about discrimination against indigenous populations, hosted by the United Nations in Geneva in 1977. This discussion inspired representatives of 120 indigenous groups throughout the Americas to gather in Quito, Ecuador in 1990, to reject the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s landing in America (present-day Haiti) in 1992. The group denounced the “500 years of oppression, which the invaders, in complicity with the ‘democratic’ governments of our countries, want to turn into events of jubilation and celebration.” Northern California attendees of the Quito conference returned home and organized a coalition to uphold the declaration and protest a massive Columbus Day celebration in San Francisco in 1992. The federally-funded celebration included a reenactment of Columbus’s ships landing under the Golden Gate Bridge. A group of about 4,000 demonstrators blocked off the entrance to the San Francisco Bay with kayaks and boats, preventing the Columbus impersonators from “landing.” The group also mobilized to institute the first-ever Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Berkeley in 1992.

Below we have compiled six of your favorite Link TV stories about the culture, suffering and resilience of indigenous communities. Stay tuned for the November premiere of “Tending Nature,” a new series exploring how indigenous peoples have actively shaped and tended the land for millennia.

 

When Native Americans Were Forcibly Removed From a Mendocino Indian Reservation

In the mid-1800s, Native Americans were forcibly removed from what is today MacKerricher State Park in Mendocino County. It was one of a series of forced marches of indigenous Californians.

Enlightened Christian warfare in the 19th century. Massacre of Indian women and children in Idaho by white scouts and their red allies. Engraving, 1868. | Getty Images
Enlightened Christian warfare in the 19th century. Massacre of Indian women and children in Idaho by white scouts and their red allies. Engraving, 1868. | Getty Images

The Art of Basket Weaving

Native American basketry has long been viewed as a community craft, yet the artistic quality and value of these baskets are on par with other fine art. Now Native peoples across the country are revitalizing basketry traditions. 

"Artbound": The Art of Basket Weaving

 

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Weaving the Words Together: Protecting Language and Life at the Same Time

The first thing Wukchumni elder Marie Wilcox wants people to learn is the true way to pronounce “Yokuts,” the broad and sweeping name that means “the people,” given to all the peoples living throughout California’s great Central Valley and up into the Sierra before colonization. As the last fluent speaker of the Wukchumni language, she is creating a dictionary to keep her language alive.

"Women in Focus": Marie's Dictionary

The Complicated History of Indigenous Knowledge and Colonial Entanglements in Surfing

Founded on a history of indigenous erasure, critical surf studies unravel the conventional narratives of surf culture in Hawaii, California, and beyond.

Hawaiians Surfing in the 19th Century (large)
Hawaiians Surfing in the 19th Century (large) | Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

Cultural Ignorance: A Lost Indigenous Recipe Could Have Prevented Pellagra Epidemic

Ancient farmers domesticated corn, or maize, about 9,000 years ago in the Rio Balsas River region of present-day Mexico. Eventually, entire communities flourished alongside maize crops. Corn traveled to Europe in the post-Columbus world and spread across the continent. But real and long-lasting problems arose when corn became a commodity crop as early as the 1700s in Europe. In the 19th-century rural South, sharecroppers grew it, sold it, ate it, and became sick — all because of a lost recipe.

An elderly pellagra sufferer in Orange County, NC, ca. 1939.
An elderly pellagra sufferer in Orange County, NC, ca. 1939.

Navajo Student Harnesses Solar Power to Address Community Need

A Navajo proverb states, "We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." Raquel Redshirt is finding solar solutions to overcome the lack of resources she sees in her Navajo Nation community in New Mexico. 

"Women in Focus": Solar Ovens in Navajo Nation

 

Top image: Thunderbird performs with the indigenous band Aztlan Underground on Hollywood Boulevard during an event celebrating Los Angeles County's decision to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day on October 8, 2017. | David McNew/Getty Images

 

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