WRITTEN AND CONTRIBUTED BY KWYN TOWNSEND RILEY

What You Need To Know:

October 11th, 2021 has been officially recognized as ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Day’ by President Joe Biden.

This is a day to honor Native Americans, their resilience, and their contributions to American society throughout history, even as they faced assimilation, discrimination, and genocide spanning generations.

The White House released this proclamation:

“Since time immemorial, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians have built vibrant and diverse cultures — safeguarding land, language, spirit, knowledge, and tradition across the generations. On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, our Nation celebrates the invaluable contributions and resilience of Indigenous peoples, recognizes their inherent sovereignty, and commits to honoring the Federal Government’s trust and treaty obligations to Tribal Nations.

Our country was conceived on a promise of equality and opportunity for all people — a promise that, despite the extraordinary progress we have made through the years, we have never fully lived up to. That is especially true when it comes to upholding the rights and dignity of the Indigenous people who were here long before the colonization of the Americas began. For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures. 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.”

The first American Indian Day was celebrated in May 1916 in New York. Red Fox James, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, rode horseback from state to state to get endorsements from 24 state governments to have a day to honor American Indians. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed a joint congressional resolution designating November as “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Similar proclamations have been issued every year since 1994, and we now refer to this celebration as “American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.”

Why You Need to Know:

Celebrating contemporary Native peoples and renouncing symbols of White supremacy is critical to our future. We must advocate for Native representation in media, education, and all levels of government, center Native voices, and prioritize learning about Native communities and history. Currently, there are approximately 6.8 million Americans who identify as Native American, approximately 2% of the U.S. population. Yet studies continue to reveal that available representations of Native Americans in mainstream U.S. society are few and far between.

Specifically, analyses of prime-time television found that less than 0.5% of speaking characters in commercials were Native American.

To get involved check out the toolkit provided by IllumniNative here.