Celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day

[ Posted Monday, October 11th, 2021 – 16:35 UTC ]

Today, according to proclamations issued by President Joe Biden, is both Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples' Day. The latter used to be somewhat of an outlier, only referenced and celebrated in the most liberal of states and cities, but has now been raised to national prominence. So to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day I'd like to reflect on how far we as a nation have come over the past few decades in adjusting our outlook towards Native Americans. Progress has indeed been made, and by historical standards, rather swift progress at that. Don't get me wrong -- we've still got a long way to go -- but it is worth celebrating the steps we have managed to take.

Biden issued two official proclamations, one for Columbus Day and one for Indigenous Peoples' Day. Even in the text of the Columbus one, Biden acknowledges that Christopher Columbus may have been a bold explorer, but he also ushered in what can truly only be called genocide. After noting the historic journey of Columbus and praising Italian-American contributions to this country over our whole history, the proclamation interjects some necessary context:

Today, we also acknowledge the painful history of wrongs and atrocities that many European explorers inflicted on Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities. It is a measure of our greatness as a Nation that we do not seek to bury these shameful episodes of our past -- that we face them honestly, we bring them to the light, and we do all we can to address them. For Native Americans, western exploration ushered in a wave of devastation: violence perpetrated against Native communities, displacement and theft of Tribal homelands, the introduction and spread of disease, and more. On this day, we recognize this painful past and recommit ourselves to investing in Native communities, upholding our solemn and sacred commitments to Tribal sovereignty, and pursuing a brighter future centered on dignity, respect, justice, and opportunity for all people.

In commemoration of Christopher Columbus's historic voyage 529 years ago, the Congress, by joint resolution... has requested the President proclaim the second Monday of October of each year as "Columbus Day." Today, let this day be one of reflection -- on America's spirit of exploration, on the courage and contributions of Italian-Americans throughout the generations, on the dignity and resilience of Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities, and on the work that remains ahead of us to fulfill the promise of our Nation for all.

The Indigenous Peoples' Day proclamation goes into a bit more detail about this "painful past," to provide even more necessary context:

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.

To state the obvious, this is all extraordinarily different that what the previous president celebrated on this particular day. In fact, it wasn't just him; that sentence should properly read: "...all previous presidents...." Joe Biden is the first sitting United States president to ever issue such a proclamation.

Columbus statues have come down across the country in the past few years (although thousands still remain), as modern Americans take a much closer look at his actual history, instead of the watered-down and Bowdlerized version of it we all learned in elementary school. At the same time, Native Americans have become increasingly respected in American culture, so it's not too surprising that the national government is finally treating them with some of the dignity and respect they've always really been entitled to -- the truly surprising part is that it took so long.

We have taken incremental steps, but recently these steps seem to have gotten bigger. The federal department created to oversee relations with Native American tribes, now known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs (under the direction of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs), has been headed by a Native American since 1977. But now -- for the first time in history -- a Native American is serving in Joe Biden's cabinet: Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. So now not only is the federal bureau run by a Native American, but that person's boss is also a Native American. That is a significant milestone.

I first wrote about Native Americans 14 years ago, in an article inspired by an idea my wife had. It was called "Native Americans, Inc." and proposed (at least half-seriously) that a company be formed by all the Native tribes across the country, and then this company would charge a yearly fee to any sports team wishing to use a Native American name, logo, imagery, mascot, or whatever else. The key part: the Native Americans would determine the fee -- which would be on a sliding scale, based on offensiveness. So the Kansas City Chiefs would pay less than the Washington football team (for their name) or the Cleveland baseball team (for their logo).

Which is why parts of an article I read today caught my eye. Not only have both Cleveland and Washington now decided to switch, but they're not the only ones -- more and more teams at all levels of sports have been rethinking their names over the past decade or so. But here's what caught my eye:

While changing sports names and mascots may seem like a big deal to fans, it's close to the bare minimum when it comes to addressing the harm done to Native Americans. But this could hopefully pave the way for making an even greater impact.

"It would be really great if the sports teams didn't just change their name, but also offered to start scholarships for Native students or donate to tribes whose land they're playing on to help them with the issues they're dealing with," [Native American comedian Joey] Clift said. "Name-changing is an amazing first step. But it would also be cool if these teams were willing to give monetary compensation to tribes to actually help the healing process."

Clift cites numerous studies and research, including from the American Psychological Association, on the deeply harmful impacts of Native mascots on Native people, and especially youth, who struggle with low high school graduation rates and a Native youth suicide rate that's 2.5 times higher than the overall national average.

"When you only see yourself in the media as a racist caricature, and red face smiling or carrying a tomahawk, and not yourself in contemporary roles and modern society, it causes low self-esteem and it makes you feel like garbage," Clift said. "This is real damage that these teams have caused over decades."

It's time for wealthy sports teams to actively work to repair that long-lasting damage caused by such harmful imagery.

"Money can always help," Clift says, calling on teams that have changed their mascots to consider "donating large sums of money to Native-run nonprofits."

Clift was quoted for this article because he just released a short video on Comedy Central titled: "How To Cope With Your Team Changing Its Native American Mascot" (which, believe it or not, is actually the shorter version -- within the video, the title is: "So Your Sports Team Had To Change Its Name And/Or Mascot Because It Was Offensive To Native Americans"). The article explains: "The satirical animated short film is written and narrated by comedian Joey Clift, an enrolled member of the Cowlitz tribe who grew up on the Tulalip Indian Reservation. Clift, along with an all-Native voice cast, offers cheeky solutions to fans who may miss performing the Tomahawk chop or wearing redface."

It's pretty funny, but it also doesn't hesitate to make its point plain (as that title shows). But Clift has even better advice for everyone today, so I leave any of you wondering what you can do to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day with his words:

"Instead of 'honoring' Native people by using us as sports mascots, I hope more people try to honor Native people by watching all these kickass Native TV shows that are coming out right now, and reading books by Natives, and getting actual Native perspectives on things," Clift said.

Rutherford Falls, the Peacock comedy following two best friends on a neighboring town and reservation, was just renewed for a second season, and Sterlin Harjo's FX on Hulu serious Reservation Dogs, is also coming back for a second installment. Clift has his own show coming up. The Netflix animated series Spirit Rangers, in which he is part of an all-Native writers' room, will begin streaming in 2022.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


34 Comments on “Celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day”

  1. [1] 
    andygaus wrote:

    In Boston today, there were no dual proclamations: today was simply Indigenous People's Day, by proclamation of (outgoing) Mayor Kim Janey. Probably not a real happy day for what's left of the Italian community in the North End.

  2. [2] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    (cue Repugs crying "Blame Andria first! Love it or leave it!)

    This "Indigenous People's Day" and Washington Football Team et al seems all well and good but strikes me as a form of talking the right talk, virtue signaling our respects but not paying Native Americans, Inc. or laying down money and political capital to ameliorate our NA's horrendous circumstances and historical injustices. Which is to say, they aren't walking the walk.

    I would point out that tons of NA High Schools etc. have NA themed team names, borne proudly onto the Gridiron on Friday nights. But that's as different from white billionaires use ofRedskins or Chief Wazoo as black folks calling themselves the n-word versus white racists doing so.

    We've started somewhere but indeed, we've a long way to go.

  3. [3] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Blame AMERICA first!

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    well, ya gotta blame someone.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    You make an extremely salient point.

    It's one thing to talk the talk and decry sports teams' names and mascots but it's quite another to walk the walk and get right down to recognizing Indigenous rights.

    This past September 30 marked the first annual National Day For Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. Which came about in the wake of the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of First Nations' children on the sites of former Residential Schools. These 'mission' schools, run largely by the Catholic church, were put in place by settler and then Canadian governments to eliminate the 'Indian problem' by forcing all First Nations children to attend these schools where they were prohibited from speaking their languages and practicing their cultural traditions. The proper word for it was genocide.

    It's not a holiday per se but a day where Canadians are encouraged to learn about the history of First Nations and to listen to Indigenous Canadians.

    Our non-Indigenous political leaders never talk about Tribal or inherent sovereignty so I applaud president Biden for using those important terms.

    There can be no reconciliation without truth and there can be no truth without the recognition of Indigenous rights including land and resource rights and the inherent right of self-government.

  6. [6] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    But that's as different from white billionaires use ofRedskins or Chief Wazoo as black folks calling themselves the n-word versus white racists doing so.

    When I lived on the Crow Reservation in Montana, I asked some of the tribal leaders how they felt about sports teams like the Atlanta Braves, KC Chiefs, and the Cleveland Indians using NA as their mascots. Their answers shocked me, actually. They loved them! They did not feel that they were being mocked by the teams. As one told me, “It is just nice to see that we are acknowledged to have existed in this country.” If it weren’t for them being the mascots for different teams in different sports, we would never discuss Native Americans at all. And the mascots were beloved by their fans…no team had a mascot named the “Drunk Injuns”. When I asked if they had a problem with the mascots looking too “cartoonish”; their response was,

    “Do you have a problem how Elmer Fudd is portrayed? Him being a cartoon of a white guy?”

    “Of course not, I do not associate myself with being Elmer Fudd so why would it?”

    That was exactly their point! Most NA communities love a good laugh, and take joy at laughing at themselves. They have a good sense of humor.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    That just points up the difference between talking the talk and walking the walk, mascots versus inherent rights.

    I'm not suprised at all by the reaction of members of the Crow First Nation.

  8. [8] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Elizabeth Miller wrote,

    The proper word for it was genocide.

    Not to nitpick (which is exactly what I'm doing) but the proper term in this Canadian and American case is cultural genocide.

  9. [9] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Good point. Some years ago it occurred to me that these NA themed sports teams should play royalties into an NA fund, kind of as with naming rights in general.

  10. [10] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Don Harris wrote,

    What is incorrect about what Prof. Schwartz said about Trump (and what Ralph said about Bernie)?

    Try clicking the link again. It is explained there the same way it has been explained numerous times here.

    So read that and engage.

    Dummkopf! That's the same b.s. I constantly get from you.

    I asked you a direct question -- how is Prof. Schwartz wrong?

    "Engaging" means that this is when YOU have to go read the transcript (as, say, I did twice) and YOU have to first quote and then rebut each of his incorrect assertions. Just like YOU have to post any link that you want us to check out. See how well that worked just now?

    Why the hell should WE do YOUR job for you? To support your arguments?

    This is not rocket science here. Why don't you understand that this is how one "engages" along the way to "persuading" and hopefully even "enlisting" people?*smh*

  11. [11] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Kind of what you see everyone else around here doing.

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    No, Caddy ... I left out the cultural part quite deliberately.

    The 'Indian problem' is delineated, at least insofar as Canada is concerned, around the concept of Aboriginal Title. Large parts of my country are unceded Aboriginal lands. Ditto for the lion's share of the resources on and under that unceded land that have been extracted by the Crown.

    There isn't enough money in Canada to compensate First Nations for all of the stolen land and resources. Settler and Canadian governments understood this, ah, dilemma, all too well.

    And, so, what to do. Eliminate the Indians (and Metis and Inuit) and you eliminate the need for compensation.

    How to eliminate the Indians? Start by forcibly taking First Nations childrem from their parents and communities and placing them in 'residential schools' where they would be stripped of their 'Indian' identity and therefore completely assimilated into Canadian mainstream.

    No Indian identity, no claims to the land, we're all Canadians with 'equal rights'. End of problem.

    No, Caddy, this was not simply cultural genocide - it was a way to, over time, eliminate hundreds of First Nations - their people, their traditions, their systems of government, their languages. That is the very definition of genocide.

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Furthermore, Caddy, the Residential Schools were just one means by which settler and Canadian governments have attempted to eliminate First Nations and their rights. I could go on and on and on about all that has been done here to wipe out First Nations and their rights.

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The good news is that First Nations are still here and they are not going anywhere!

    It is now up to Canadians to decide what kind of country we wish to live in ... one that is based on principles of fairness and justice, or not.

  15. [15] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Re "Honoring Columbus and our Italian heritage - HELL YES, without old Chris C's courageous exploratory efforts, we wouldn't have ever had Dean Martin, Pizza or the Mafia.

    Re "Cultural genocide", I'd point out that most of the efforts made by governments, social and religious organizations to assimilate the various tribes into white society, regardless of how mistaken or misguided you might feel they ultimately turned out, were made by people of good faith who sincerely believed that transition would be of benefit to these involved. Certainly not the first nor the worst screw-up ever made by liberal "reformers".

    Re the entire question - Remember, the stereotypical Hollywood image of the noble Indian Brave astride his Palomino pony, with his eagle feather bonnet streaming in the wind, resplendent in his beaded moccasins and vest, with his Winchester rifle held aloft, was always a total fiction. Everything in that picture, the horse, the rifle, and even the glass beads, came from the white man.

    Did anybody EVER believe that a couple million Native Americans living in the stone age could have the whole North American continent all to themselves in perpetuity? Get real, folks.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Did anybody EVER believe that a couple million Native Americans living in the stone age could have the whole North American continent all to themselves in perpetuity? Get real, folks.

    Oh, there is so very much to learn. And, I am going to take it upon myself to do some of that hard work around here.

    Consider yourself properly forewarned!

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    CRS, these are the kinds of comments I am used to dealing with in the Globe and Mail comments sections. It pains me to have to deal with them hear.

    It's never a good idea to comment on things we know very little about and, at the same time, sound like we know it all.

    Let that be lesson number one. :)

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Don, sorry, I haven't done that yet but, I will.

    Could you just cut and paste your comment right here in the meantime?

  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Do I need a link to the link? Very funny, Don. Heh.

    Maybe I do ... ahem.

  20. [20] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Mtn Caddy-
    My bad.

    I forgot the lack of intellect I was dealing with.

    My answer is not in the transcript- it is in my comment at the Radio Hour website.

    So you click the link and read the comment.

    Lack of intellect? Based on your inability to discuss OD's myriad problems indicates that I've probably got more intelligence in my pinky than your whole family tree. You did NOT at all answer Schwartz's objections whatsoever in your comments, just like you don't answer anybody's problems here, so I hereby give up on you.

  21. [21] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Yeah, right. Like everybody else here.

  22. [22] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    that's called the burden of proof fallacy. far left column, center row on my bingo board.

    the burden of proof lies with the person making the claim to prove, not with anyone else to disprove. just because nobody here can prove that pie isn't a brilliant strategy doesn't make it so. the proof that pie IS a brilliant strategy is in the pie-filling, when you taste it.


  23. [23] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    CRS wrote,

    [They're efforts] ...Re "Cultural genocide", I'd point out that most of the efforts made by governments, social and religious organizations to assimilate the various tribes into white society, regardless of how mistaken or misguided you might feel they ultimately turned out, were made by people of good faith who sincerely believed that transition would be of benefit to these involved. Certainly not the first nor the worst screw-up ever made by liberal "reformers".

    I believe that they were largely Christian people of good faith. Which begs the question, Stuck

  24. [24] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    ... are you yourself a Christian?

    No biggie at all if you don't answer. As a clearly sane Weigantian who appears to lean Right, I'm just curious about your demographic, that's all.

  25. [25] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    No, idiot. It's up to your lazy ass to go copy and paste and then rebut! It's nobody else's job.

  26. [26] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    CRS wrote,

    Did anybody EVER believe that a couple million Native Americans living in the stone age could have the whole North American continent all to themselves in perpetuity? Get real, folks.

    Stuck, I trust that everybody here knows that the colonization of North America was inevitable. Acknowledging the reality that all of the Western Hemisphere, most of Africa along with India and parts east means that it's nothing special.

  27. [27] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    And other European colonizers could be just as brutal as white people in America (e.g. King Leopold of Belgium in the Congo.)

    King Leopold had millions of hands chopped off but I don't think fully 90% of the native died, as did First Nations did.

  28. [28] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    THAT'S EXACTLY what I was trying to Caddysplain, but he shined it. *sigh* That's what I get for trying to discuss OD with him. He remains persistently clueless. I hope he doesn't make name calling to attract attention like Michale used to when he ducked questions etc. Of course, if it got him red carded...

  29. [29] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    No, idiot.

    Let me walk you through it:

    1- copy EACH of Schwartz's wrong points and paste each here. One at a time!

    2- beneath each SEPARATE point that you disagree with, write a fresh rebuttal to that INDIVIDUAL point. Copying your own comment and posting it here ain't gonna get it. You gotta be here, live and in the room with us.
    You have to interact with whomever, and respond rather than shine the tough feedback
    that rolls in.

    3- Rince and repeat, one point at a time, until you have addressed everything that you want.

    4- conclude with a summary, a poignant question or whatever you like. Or not.

    5- carefully read some of the back and forth between the rest of Weigantia if you're unsure.

    NAME CALLING is juvenile, even coming from folks who have much more compelling arguments than you and I.

    Hope this helps. I don't see how you're going to win anybody over here unless you follow my advice. Try it, you'll like it!

  30. [30] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Justin tucker? More like scott Norwood.

  31. [31] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    Ahh, come on MtnCaddy you know that is way beyond Don's capabilities :-)

    Actually, Don and Herman Schwartz completely talked right past each other. Herman did not address Don's question and Don was to busy with his pedantic correction of small donor to address the points Herman was making.

    The big question I see is: it is true with the reoccurring donations both from Bernie and Trump, but legally if you give 5 donations of $50, on that fifth donation your name should become public and you are no longer listed as small donor. Depending on the organization and how one donates this can be automatic or not. At this point the data on small/big donors should be theoretically correct. There are ways around this. Don do you have any proof that the small donor to big donor conversion is not taking place in large enough numbers to change the percentage of small to big donations?

  32. [32] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:


    According to Bernie's 2016 run had 57.70% >$200 donations. Do you have proof this data is incorrect?

    Your accusation is the first I have heard of it. You own it. Can you back it up?

  33. [33] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    Per link I just posted, that takes you directly to Bernie's 2016 campaign finance summary: 57.70% of total money donated were by sub $200 donations. Government data. All small donations supposedly aggregated so if a single person's multiple donations go above $200 they are bumped from the small donation category...

    Is this data correct, yes or no?

  34. [34] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:


    Considering I have already stated that multiple donations from a single person that go above $200 are bumped from the small donation category, difference between donations and donors does not matter.

    You are trying to push a conspiracy theory that there are a lot fewer small donation donors than the government published data takes in to account. Cheating is possible but I expect it to be at the margin of error level. Do you have proof it is wide spread or are you just talking out your ass?

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