On October 9th, Los Angeles recognized its first Indigenous Peoples Day. This date is usually designated as Columbus Day, a holiday dedicated to a man historically credited with the “discovery” of Americas. Of course, Christopher Columbus actually landed in the Caribbean and parts of South America. Furthermore, Columbus was not celebrated as a significant figure in the history of the United States until 1906 as Italian-Americans fought ethnic discrimination. Historians also now acknowledge that Columbus is one of many government agents whose expeditions proved disastrous to the indigenous populations of America. Scholars estimate that the combination of forced labor, disease, wars, and the state-sanctioned removal of indigenous peoples killed millions.
Within the U.S., discussions about the elimination of Columbus Day have been occurring for quite some time. While some Italian-Americans want to preserve the holiday, indigenous communities see the establishment of Indigenous Peoples Day as a small step in restorative justice. The new holiday may provide some closure to those who feel erased from history.
Acknowledging Indigenous Peoples Day
For those seeking information about indigenous peoples, begin with local land and history. Even Loyola Marymount University sits on lands occupied by the Gabrielino-Tongva indigenous peoples.
Indigenous peoples history IS American history. In this vein, this month’s “Explore Staff Picks” collection features books discussing indigenous society like:
- Indians Playing Indian : Multiculturalism and Contemporary Indigenous Art in North America explores the responses of indigenous artists offering narratives of the political histories of their nations in order to resist multicultural incorporation.
- Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit : Essays on Native American Life Today includes stories from the poet Silko’s childhood as well as the history of the Laguna Pueblo peoples.
- Reinventing the Enemy’s Language : Contemporary Native Women’s Writings of North America is a robust collection of poetry, prayer, and memoir from Native American women.
For those more apt to visit social media, there is also a Twitter list of a few current indigenous illustrators and authors. If you have additional titles to recommend, let us know on Twitter!