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This Day in History: Indigenous Peoples’ Day

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Last year, President Joe Biden became the first president in American history to formally recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures,” Biden wrote a proclamation at the time. “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.”

Several states have chosen to ditch Columbus Day celebrations and instead honor Indigenous people. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an effort to fix a “whitewashed” American history. The Europeans have credited Columbus for discovering the “New World.”

Historians conveniently chose to leave out the fact that Indigenous people had been in America for centuries since his 1492 arrival.

When Columbus landed in America, he quickly and very violently enslaved the Indigenous people sending thousands of Taino “Indians” to Spain to be sold. Indigenous people who were not sold into slavery were forced to search for gold in mines or work on plantations.

Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota and Vermont all officially celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Arizona, California, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington D.C. have all recognized the day via a proclamation.

However, not all states have accepted Indigenous Peoples’ Day and it is Columbus Day that the U.S. government recognizes as a federal holiday.

“It can be a day of reflection of our history in the United States, the role Native people have played in it, the impacts that history has had on native people and communities, and also a day to gain some understanding of the diversity of Indigenous peoples,” Van Heuvelen, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe from South Dakota, told NPR.

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