Monday, October 12, 2009

Indigenous Peoples Day

In 1992 I had the honor of being present for the first celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day in San Francisco, California.

It had such a influence on my life. At the time I was living south of the city in San Jose. I took the bus up by myself and when I arrived at city hall I was shocked by the heavy police presence. There had to be over 100 police. This was very unsettling and it caused anger in me. God forbid Indians should gather in one place to celebrate their heritage.

Well, once the event began it was easy to forget the police presence and listen to the speakers and music. It was on this empowering day in my favorite city that I was introduced to poet, singer, activist John Trudell. John is such a powerful speaker and voice for what it means to not only be a Native American but to be a human being in such insane times.

A good way to introduce yourself to John's music and lectures is through YTube videos.

One of the founders of Indigenous Peoples Day was Millie Ketcheschawno, a member of the Muskogee Creek Nation. She was a long time activist for Native American rights who lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. Millie was one of the founders of "Resistance 500". This group helped to stop the Quincentennial Jubilee plan to sail replicas of Columbus' armada into San Francisco Bay. In 1992 the Berkeley Resistance 500 Task Force, endorsed by the Berkeley City Council, brought about the end of the Columbus Day celebration in Berkeley, replacing it with Indigenous Peoples Day.

Native American activist thought it was appropriate to also celebrate that Indigenous people are still alive and their cultures are not gone. Some Native American activist groups view the ”discovery” of America by Columbus as the “Columbus' Invasion”.

Millie Ketcheschawno passed away in 2000 but she would be pleased that today California, Hawaii, South Dakota, Nevada, The Virgin Islands and many cities and Universities in the US no longer celebrate Columbus Day.

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