Baltimore Citizens for Indigenous People's Day
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Indigenous People’s Day is a movement in the United States to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. The movement seeks to replace a day celebrating conquest, genocide, rape, slavery and the idea of European superiority with an alternative that celebrates the resiliency, cultures and true histories of Indigenous Peoples in the United States.
From Seattle Washington to Anadarko, Oklahoma people have successfully organized their local government to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. In recent year, cities across the US have joined the movement including Denver, Portland, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Phoenix, and many more. States are also changing the observance including Vermont, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Alaska.
Last year, Baltimore City Council introduced legislation for Baltimore to join over 14 cities and 3 states to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass. With a deeper understanding of not only the true history of Christopher Columbus but also the local Native American community and our important role in Baltimore City, we are hopeful that the new Baltimore City Council will stand with Baltimore Urban Indians who are again calling for the holiday to be renamed.
Baltimore is home to one of the largest urban Indian populations on the East coast. There are over 7,000 Native Americans residents in the Baltimore area. In the US today there are 5.2 million Native Americans (1.7% of the total population) who are members of 568 federally recognized tribes and over 200 state recognized tribes.
“One of the most frequently raised issues in our community is the sense of erasure,” says Kerry Hawk Lessard (Shawnee), Executive Director of Native American Lifelines. “I’ve been told before that our numbers are too small and they don’t matter. But when you consider the number of our people struggling with poverty, substance abuse, mental illness, or lack of housing, the health status of our people has a real impact on the overall health of the city. Anything that contributes to the minimization or erasure of Native people, whether it’s mascots or celebrations of genocide, has real-time impact on the lives of our people. Rejecting painful reminders of the past and instead embracing the resilience and presence of Native people is an important step in the empowerment and healing of our communities.”
After a White Supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, ended in tragic violence that killed one person, organizers across the country called for the removal of confederate monuments. Baltimore was a national leader when the city acted swiftly to remove three Confederate monuments, that Mayor Catherine Pugh stated “represented pain”. Baltimore has another opportunity to demonstrate its place in American politics and history as a progressive city by changing the name of holiday that celebrates a purveyor of genocide, to a holiday that celebrate the Native American citizens who call Baltimore home.
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