While holidays may seem trite and ineffective at promoting the values they represent—Does Christmas generate Christian values?—they nonetheless retain the capacity of drawing peoples’ attention away from the status quo of everyday life. In fact, in the case of efforts at establishing new holidays, the public struggle for recognition may create a maelstrom of controversy and debate. One need only think back to when Martin Luther King Jr Day was considered a subversive, un-American idea.
While Indigenous Peoples Day may not be instigating the kind of passionate reactions that MLK Day once inspired, its message is no less profound—the abolishment of Columbus Day and the heinous crime of colonization that it symbolizes. In its place is a recognition that America is Indian Land and that America’s First Peoples are still here, complete with a celebration of our survival, our communities, and cultures.
Although it will take an Act of Congress to make Indigenous Peoples Day a federal holiday, like MLK Day or Thanksgiving, the idea behind this Day is an idea whose time has come. As of October 10, 2016, the following cities have adopted IPD in place of Columbus Day: Berkeley (CA), Denver (CO), Minneapolis (MN), Seattle (WA), Red Wing (MN), Grand Rapids (MN), Traverse (MI), Newstead (NY), Akron (NY), St Paul (MN), Olympia (WA), Lewiston (NY), Anadarko (OK), Anchorage (AK), Portland (OR), Carborro (NC), Albuquerque (NM), San Francisco (CA), Belfast (ME), Durango (CO), Asheville (NC), Eugene (OR), Cambridge (MA), Bainbridge Island (WA), Santa Fe (NM), Yakima (WA), and Phoenix (AZ).
Below are two short videos that I recorded this past Friday, October 7 at Arizona State University, Tempe Campus, which was celebrating its inaugural Indigenous Peoples Day: