Home Opinion OPINION: Democrats Discuss — Indigenous Peoples Day is every day

OPINION: Democrats Discuss — Indigenous Peoples Day is every day

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Lucy Thompson is a sophomore double majoring in geography and environmental studies. She is the Ohio University College Democrats communications director. The following article reflects the opinions and views of the author and does not represent the thoughts of the Ohio University College Democrats. 

This is a submitted column. Please note that these views and opinions do not reflect those of The New Political.

On Oct. 12, people across America spoke out supporting Indigenous Peoples Day and condemning Christopher Columbus. 

The second Monday in October is a federal holiday celebrating the “discovery” of the American continents by Columbus. About 500 years after the event, the controversy over Columbus and the celebration of his actions have come to a boiling point. Many people are instead using the day to celebrate and support the Indigenous population in America.

Although Columbus Day is still a federal holiday, some states and many cities have released statements announcing the celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day in its place. 

It was heartening to see so many people on social media during the holiday denouncing Columbus as a racist and uplifting Indigenous people, but it needs to be acknowledged that Columbus is just the beginning of the problem. 

Christopher Columbus was not an exception in his time, he was the rule. Countless times before and after his landing in the “new world,” European powers proved to be racist, violent and malicious. 

Columbus and the whole toxic system that he was a product of, which still operates today, must be denounced.

His life, the consequences of his actions and the celebration of his “discovery” are all propped up by revisionist history that praises the genocide and enslavement of Indigenous people on the American continents. 

It is also worth noting that the name “America” is derived from Amerigo Vespucci. Vespucci was another white explorer, and he was the first European to indicate that the present-day Americas were not the Indies that explorers of the time assumed they were sailing toward. This is a further slight to the Indigenous populations of North and South America. The celebration of Columbus Day and land named after usurpers are part of the erasure of Indigenous experiences in day-to-day life as well as erasure in academia with the “pristine myth and the noble savage.” The pristine myth depicts Indigenous people as barbarians scattered across the pre-colonial landscape, and the noble savage as a sage steward of the environment. 

As many Americans are the descendants of immigrants and living on stolen land, we owe Indigenous people the acknowledgment of past wrongs and the implementation of decisive action to correct the continuation of the marginalization of their communities. 

Although the celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day is a positive action, much more is required of us. 

First and foremost, Indigenous people need the respect and consideration of the U.S. government. No administration, Democratic or Republican, has truly afforded Indigenous peoples this. As a white woman, I cannot speak much further on Indigenous people or their wishes, but this should be obvious. 

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has many policy issues and campaigns it is working on to further the well-being and advancement of Indigenous people in America. These issues span tribal governance to community and culture and require the attention and effort of all American citizens. 

An issue that stands out starkly to me is the rates of violence toward and disappearances of Indigenous women. Indigenous women are sexually assaulted and murdered at a rate as much as 10 times higher than average. The #MMIW (Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women) and other educational campaigns have been useful in bringing this travesty into the spotlight, but more decisive action must be taken by governments and the public. 

The treatment of women in any community is often a litmus test for the well-being and valuation of the community, and this is no different. The rates of murdered and missing Indigenous women are indicative of how Indigenous people have been ignored and mistreated in America, and how we all need to unite around these communities and support them in growth, success and reclamation.

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